SHADY SIDE, MD — The Coast Guard suspended the search Friday night for two members of the Kennedy family who went missing Thursday afternoon while canoeing along the Chesapeake Bay. Efforts will instead shift to the recovery of the bodies of Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and her 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean. Maeve McKean is the granddaughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
The Coast Guard suspended the search Friday evening for the pair, who went missing near Herring Bay Thursday evening, according to a statement. Maryland Natural Resources Police will continue their recovery efforts at sunrise Saturday.
Neither McKean nor her son wore a life jacket when they ventured out in the canoe, Capt. Brian Rathgeb with the Maryland NRP told WJLA.
“We will recover them, it’s just a matter of when,” Rathgeb told the TV station.
McKean is executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative and the daughter of Maryland’s former lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. McKean is also a grand-niece of former president John F. Kennedy. Gideon is the McKeans’ first child, named after a Supreme Court case ordering states to pay for defense attorneys for the poor.
The former lieutenant governor said in a statement Friday that her daughter will be remembered for her devotion to helping society’s most vulnerable through the Peace Corps and other endeavors. Her grandson she described as a star athlete who loved soccer, golf, and running.
“Maeve was vivid. You always knew when she was in a room. Her laughter was loud, unabashed, and infectious,” Kennedy Townsend said. “She did everything with her full self and her whole heart. She gave the best hugs, sang loudly and out of tune, danced, wrestled, argued, forgave. Maeve shone. The fire emanating from her soul warmed us all. Her husband, David, and their children, Gideon, Gabriella, and Toby, were the great joys of her life. The role she treasured most was mom.”
Gideon loved riddles, math, chess, and adventures, his grandmother said. “He loved to invent new games with his mom and share them with us all. Gideon was a loving and protective big brother to Gabriella and Toby.”
Coast Guard personnel searched a combined total of 3,658 square miles over air, sea, and land over 26 hours.
“This was a difficult case, and even more difficult to make the decision to suspend the search,” said Cmdr. Matthew Fine, deputy sector commander and active search suspension authority at Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region command center. “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.”
David McKean told The Washington Post that his wife and son disappeared Thursday afternoon while in a canoe on the Chesapeake Bay. The family had been at a waterfront home in Shady Sideowned by his wife’s mother.
About 4 p.m. Thursday, children at the home were kicking a ball around in the yard and the ball went into the water. McKean told the newspaper his wife and son “popped into a canoe to chase it down. They just got farther out than they could handle and couldn’t get back in.”
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he had reached out to Kennedy Townsend and “expressed our most heartfelt sympathy and prayers to her and her entire family at this difficult time.”
The Anne Arundel County Police Department was dispatched to 1500 Robinson Road in Shady Side about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. A 911 caller told the dispatch center that he had seen two people in a small canoe or kayak drifting in Chesapeake Bay. A water rescue assignment was called out, and first responders from the Annapolis Fire Department, Maryland Natural Resources Police, Maryland State Police’s aviation division, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape May, New Jersey, Queen Anne’s County and Calvert County arrived.
When firefighters arrived at the pier, they saw two people in a small vessel believed to be a canoe several miles from the pier drifting south in the Chesapeake Bay. Boats and helicopters began a search of the Chesapeake Bay, the Anne Arundel County Fire Department reported.
At 7 p.m., a canoe and a paddle were recovered east of Rockhold Creek in Deale by the Coast Guard and the fireboat from the City of Annapolis Fire Department. At 7:30 p.m., the search was called off due to darkness. The mother and son were last seen 10 miles south of Annapolis near Herring Bay.
A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard told The Washington Post that the wind in that part of the bay was at 26 knots or 30 mph Thursday afternoon, with waves rising 2 to 3 feet high.
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