The granddaughter of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and her son are presumed dead after a search of Chesapeake Bay failed to find them.
A Coast Guard search for Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and Gideon McKean, 8, that began on Thursday “has turned from rescue to recovery,” according to a Friday statement, Fox News reported.
McKean and her son were last seen in a canoe struggling to return to shore.
The family had been gathering Thursday at a home owned by Maeve McKean’s mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who’s the daughter of Robert Kenndy and a former lieutenant governor of Maryland.
Maeve’s husband, David McKean, offered an explanation for the tragedy on his Facebook page.
“We were self-quarantining in an empty house owned by Maeve’s mother Kathleen on the Chesapeake Bay, hoping to give our kids more space than we have at home in DC to run around,” he said. “Gideon and Maeve were playing kickball by the small, shallow cove behind the house, and one of them kicked the ball into the water. The cove is protected, with much calmer wind and water than in the greater Chesapeake.
“They got into a canoe, intending simply to retrieve the ball, and somehow got pushed by wind or tide into the open bay,” he wrote.
“About 30 minutes later they were spotted by an onlooker from land, who saw them far out from shore, and called the police. After that last sighting, they were not seen again. The Coast Guard recovered their canoe, which was capsized and miles away, at approximately 6:30 yesterday evening,” David McKean added.
“This was a difficult case, and even more difficult to make the decision to suspend the search,” Coast Guard Cmdr. Matthew Fine said, according to CNN.
“Our crews and partners did everything they could to find them. We’ve kept the family informed at every step during the search, and our thoughts are with them tonight.”
The Coast Guard said the wind in Herring Bay, an offshoot of the larger bay, was at 26 knots, or roughly 30 mph, when Maeve McKean and her son entered the water.
Waves were between two and three feet high at the time.
The Coast Guard began its search Thursday and by Friday afternoon had covered 2,275 square miles, according to The Washington Post.
Townsend announced the loss of McKean and her son “with profound sadness.”
“Our Maeve devoted her life to helping society’s most vulnerable,” she said in a statement. “She was a Peace Corps volunteer who pursued a career in law to give voice to the voiceless.”
“My heart is crushed, yet we shall try to summon the grace of God and what strength we have to honor the hope, energy and passion that Maeve and Gideon set forth into the world,” she also said.
McKean served as the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative. She was an adjunct professor at the university, teaching bioethics and human rights.
Summing up his son on Facebook, David McKean wrote, “I used to marvel at him as a toddler and worry that he was too perfect to exist in this world. It seems to me now that he was.”
In writing about his wife, he said she “was my everything. She was my best friend and my soulmate.”
“She was the brightest light I have ever known,” he wrote.
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