By Findadeath.com friend Ross Griffiths
"She had a nut streak in her, but she also had some kind of energy force
behind her eyes.----It was like she put on her little custom suit, shot a beam across the room, and zapped you.". That was the way a former co-worker
described Jessica Savitch's famous persona which captivated network news viewers in the late 70's and early 80's. She was a tough broad who had
worked her ass off to reach the top of the heap and become an undisputed TV news superstar. Like many superstars, however, she also developed a
Here is the house today.
Her father supported his family (barely, by some accounts) running a men's clothing
store while Florence was a housewife. In 1959, when Jessica was 12, David Savitch died of kidney disease. Florence uprooted the girls and moved them
all to the depressing New Jersey shore town of Margate (which is near the even more depressing dump,
Atlantic City). Florence worked crappy jobs to keep the family together. Jessica supposedly would later recall what
a traumatic comedown it was from their earlier life. While attending Atlantic City High School, Jessica met a local teen celebrity named Steve Berger who
turned her on to broadcasting by giving her voice-over work on his show at the local, low-wattage radio station. Jessica eventually scored her own
program called "Teen Corner" where she played music and discussed current news events. She went onto study communications at Ithaca College where her work in local broadcasting led to modeling jobs and TV commercials.
Finally, in New York, Jessica met Joan Showalter, the legendary head of personnel at CBS, who took a liking to the young upstart, and got her a
clerical job at the station, and led her eventually to her "big break" at KHOU-TV in Houston.
She left Houston (An up-and-coming Linda Ellerbee replaced her), took the Philadelphia job for a pittance and became an instant celebrity. She leveraged an extremely lucrative contract, got a makeover, moved into a ritzy apartment house on Washington Square and began hobnobbing with the Philadelphia elite.
It was during KYW's nationally aired Gerald Ford/Jimmy Carter debate (a real nail-biter, I'm sure) that Jessica first got national exposure, and within a
year, she had the Senate beat for NBC news. Critics and old-school broadcasters were less than thrilled with the young and somewhat
inexperienced anchor being appointment to this position, and she was
Here is the restaurant today.
About 7:15 they left the parking lot, coming toward the camera in this picture, with Fischbein behind the wheel and Jessica in the back seat with Chewy.
Either ignoring or not seeing the "No Vehicles" signs in the pouring rain, Fischbein drove out the wrong exit
and up the towpath of the old Delaware Canal.
He veered too far to the left and the car went over the edge into the shallow water.
The station wagon fell about 15 feet and landed upside-down, sinking into deep mud which sealed the doors shut, trapping the occupants inside as the water poured in.
The wreck was discovered by a local resident at about 11:30 that night. Rescuers found Fischbein's body still
strapped behind the wheel, and Jessica and Chewy's in the rear. The bodies were taken to Doylestown Hospital for autopsies. The Bucks County coroner
later ruled that both had died asphyxiation (by drowning). He noted that Fischbein was apparently knocked unconscious in the wreck but Jessica was
not, and had struggled to escape. Ironically, there were no signs that drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash, it was just some dumb accident.
Now here's an odd twist reported in a couple of biographies: Upon hearing about the crash, (alleged)
Jessica-beater Ron Kershaw went immediately to
the accident scene. Jessica and Fischbein's bodies had been removed, but Kershaw found Chewy's body lying on some debris by the side of the canal.
Apparently the rescue workers had just dumped it there. Somewhere it said that they mistook the dog's body for a fur coat and discarded it by mistake,
but I find that hard to believe.
Jessica's Memorial service was conducted at the Roth Memorial Chapel in the bleak hellhole of Atlantic City. Her old broadcast colleague, Mort Crim,
read the eulogy to the 25 or so who attended. Jessica and Chewy had been cremated together, and their ashes were scattered in the stormy Atlantic
Epilogue: Her estate sued a bunch of different people for wrongful death
and received an award of over $8 million--the largest settlement ever for a woman. Some of the money was used to set up college scholarships. She also
had a cheesy Lifetime movie made about her starring the acclaimed talents of Ron Silver and Sela Ward. There was a marginally better Michelle Pfeiffer
film called "Up Close and Personal" which was loosely based on Jessica's story.
More: Here is an historical marker near the accident site. Read. Learn.
I bow to you, Ross. Well done.
MORE! October 28, 2000: "I think that Jessica died in a Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Wagon, I remember seeing it in photos years ago when she was killed. Just some trivia from a "car guy". Thanks, Andrew!"
And even more - December 10, 2000: She spoke at the 1982 graduation ceremony at Dundee Community High School (Carpentersville, Ill-Annoy. It closed the following year). She barely made any sense, she was rattling something convoluted about economics. I think the only one who wondered if she was high was me (the rest of thestudent body was pretty sheltered. It was a small town). Don't do drugs, kiddies. Liz Outlaw (thanks Liz!)