Search called off for Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter and her son who are feared dead, husband pays moving tribute

The search for Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and her 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, has been turned from "rescue to recovery"


                            Search called off for Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter and her son who are feared dead, husband pays moving tribute
(Mike Pont/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: After it was reported that the search for the daughter and grandson of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had turned from "rescue to recovery," the family paid moving tributes to the missing.

Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and her 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, had been reported missing after they "popped into a canoe" to chase down a ball that fell into the Chesapeake Bay, and went farther than they could handle on Thursday, April 2.

Around 7 pm the same day, the Natural Resources Police said they found a canoe matching the description of the one believed to be used by the pair, following which Maeve's mother, Kennedy Townsend, all but confirmed they had died.

"Our hearts are 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 said in a statement.

In a lengthy statement on Facebook, Maeve's human rights lawyer husband David McKean described what he knew of the incident that killed his wife and his son and described the former as "my everything."

"I am writing here to address the countless people who have loved my wife Maeve and my son Gideon," he posted. "As many of you have seen, they went missing in the Chesapeake Bay yesterday afternoon."

"Despite heroic efforts by the Coast Guard and many state and local authorities, the decision has now been made to suspend the active rescue effort," he continued. "The search that began yesterday afternoon went on throughout the night and continued all day today. It is now dark again. It has been more than 24 hours, and the chances they have survived are impossibly small. It is clear that Maeve and Gideon have passed away."

"The search for their recovery will continue, and I hope that that will be successful."

David explained that he and the family were self-quarantining in an empty house owned by Maeve’s mother, when a game of kickball inadvertently resulted in the ball falling into a small, shallow cove.

"The cove is protected, with much calmer wind and water than in the greater Chesapeake," he wrote. "They got into a canoe, intending simply to retrieve the ball, and somehow got pushed by wind or tide into the open bay. 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."

Paying homage to his young son, he continued, "Gideon was 8, but he may as well have been 38. He was deeply compassionate, declining to sing children’s songs if they contained a hint of animals or people being treated cruelly."

"It is impossible to sum up Gideon here. I am heartbroken to even have to try. 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."

"Maeve turned 40 in November, and she was my everything. She was my best friend and my soulmate. I have already thought many times over today that I need to remember to tell Maeve about something that’s happening. I am terrified by the idea that this will fade over time," he said of his wife.

"There has been an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from so many people. Given who Maeve and Gideon were, I am not the least surprised."

Townsend McKean was the granddaughter of the late US Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and grand-niece of the late President John F. Kennedy.

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