Damon Seligson, waded into the water and grabbed what turned out to be a piece of luggage. On the black suitcase was a Velcro-covered pouch. McCarthy and her friends peeled it back to see a business card: Lauren Bessette.

She is the sister of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, the wife of JFK Jr. All three had been aboard the plane when it disappeared Friday night.

“It was kind of like, ‘Oh God.’ It seemed like it would be pretty bad news. Everyone was shaking,” said McCarthy, 31. “I think Damon almost had a heart attack.”

McCarthy said she and her friends looked inside the bag and saw several items, including a bathing suit, a hairdryer and some makeup. She and her friends called 911. Now the search for Kennedy that had extended from Fairfield, N.J. — where he took off — to Buzzards Bay off Cape Cod was focused. Soon helicopters were hovering offshore, boats were searching the waters and swimmers and sunbathers were told to get off the beach.

Kennedy was flying with his wife and her sister to Cape Cod for the wedding of Kennedy’s cousin, Rory Kennedy, when the plane disappeared.

There are few houses in the area, which is covered by rolling hills of brambles and other scrub growth leading to sand cliffs and white beaches, which include a nearby lighthouse.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press