COAST GUARD: Body of Gideon McKean recovered 2,000 feet from where his mother Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean was found in the Chesapeake

Charles County Dive Rescue found the body of the missing Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean. Photo by Donna L. Cole

UPDATE on the recovery of the body of Lt. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s grandson


NRP-Police, Coast-Guard at scene of a rescue on the Chesapeake Bay. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

COAST GUARD: Search suspended for the daughter of former Md. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and grandson sought in search after going missing in a canoe in rough weather

SHADYSIDE, MD. — The daughter and grandson of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend were missing in the Chesapeake Bay after an adventure in a canoe in windy and rough weather that started earlier in the day when the two tried to retrieve a ball which had been carried out into the Bay with high winds.

The Coast Guard suspended searching for the mother and son last sighted ten miles south of Annapolis and north of Herring Bay, Maryland, Thursday evening.  Canoes are unpredictable small boats in the best of conditions and are not viewed as able to handle rough waters which are easily stirred up by wind. Canoes and kayaks generally are best used in inland creeks and calmer waters than found in the area of Herring Creek and the Chesapeake.

Coast Guard personnel searched a combined total of 3658 square miles over air, sea, and land over a period of 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.”

Boaters and swimmers who go missing in the Chesapeake Bay and are not discovered during an extensive search are generally found up to a week later when currents and tides move the body southward and eastward with many such events being discovered as people along the Eastern Shore are walking or boating along shorelines and marshes.

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Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Maryland National Capitol Region command center received a report from Maryland State Police members that two individuals were seen struggling to return to shore in a canoe near Herring Bay and not seen again by the reporting individual.

Governor Larry Hogan said at a press conference that he spoke with McKean’s mother, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Friday morning.

Lt.-Col.-Jesse-Graybill-with-Maryland-Lt.-Gov.-Kathleen-Kennedy-Townsend. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

“I expressed our most heartfelt sympathies and prayers to her and her entire family during this most difficult time,” Hogan said.

McKean is a granddaughter of former Attorney General and United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy and grandniece of the late President John F. Kennedy. Her mother ran for Maryland governor in 2002. McKean is the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative.

Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and her son Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean went missing Thursday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan said at a news conference Friday afternoon. An overturned canoe was later found. 

The Washington, D.C., residents may have paddled the canoe from a home on Robinson Lane in Shady Side, Maryland, “to retrieve a ball and [been] unable to paddle back to shore,” Natural Resources Police said in a statement Friday.

Coast Guard fast response The Chesapeake Today photo

An Air Station Atlantic City MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter aircrew and a Coast Guard Station Annapolis 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew were launched to assist in the search.

An Air Station Elizabeth City C-130 Hercules aircrew and a Coast Guard Station Inigoes boat crew are continuing the search Friday morning along with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Angela McShan.

Also assisting in the search are members of the Queen Anne Police Department, Arundel Police Department, Maryland Natural Resource Police, and Maryland State Police.

Anyone with additional information regarding this case should contact the Sector Maryland command center at 410-576-2525.


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

Dean McKean posted this message on Facebook:

I am writing here to address the countless people who have loved my wife Maeve and my son Gideon. As many of you have seen, they went missing in the Chesapeake Bay yesterday afternoon. I tried to reach out personally to as many people as possible before the news became public. However, I know that I was only able to scratch the surface. For those of you learning of this news here, I am sorry. I know Maeve would have loved for you to have gotten a personal call.

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. 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.

I know that people have many questions about what happened as we grapple with this tragedy. Here is what I have come to understand. 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. 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. 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.

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. He hated if I accidently let a bad word slip. He spent hours upstairs reading, learning everything he could about sports, and trying to decipher the mysteries of the stock market. But he was also incredibly social, athletic, and courageous. For his school picture, he gathered a couple of his many friends to be in the shot with him. He played every sport he could, complaining to me that even though he was often playing six days a week, there was still that seventh day, and why hadn’t I signed him up for something else. And he was brave, leading his friends in games, standing up to people who he thought were wrong (including his parents), and relishing opportunities to go on adventures with friends, even those he’d just met. 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. You could hear Maeve’s laugh a block away—and she laughed a lot. She was magical—with endless energy that she would put toward inventing games for our children, taking on another project at work or in our community, and spending time with our friends. There were weeks when we had people over to our house so often that our kids would be confused when we were just having dinner as a family. Maeve once spent the hours before New Year’s Eve organizing a 40-person party at our house, complete with a face painter, during a cross country flight home, while also reading to one of our kids in her lap. She once landed in DC after a 30-hour trip home from Asia, and then took a cab straight to the pool to play with our kids. She did the Peace Corps, she ran the Boston Marathon, she knew how rub Gabriella’s legs when they cramped, and being in her presence somehow allowed you to be a better version of yourself. She was the brightest light I have ever known.

At seven, Gabriella is heartbroken, but she amazes me with her maturity and grace. Toby is two-and-a-half, so he’s still his usual magical and goofy self. I know soon he will start to ask for Maeve and Gideon. It breaks my heart that he will not get to have them as a mother and brother.

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. I am trying my best to respond. Many have asked what they can do. I don’t have any answers for that right now. If people have photos of Maeve or Gideon, those would be great for us to have, especially for me to share with Gabriella and Toby. And feel free to tell stories here. As Gabriella and Toby lay sleeping next to me last night, I promised them that I would do my best to be the parent that Maeve was, and to be the person that Gideon clearly would have grown up to be. Part of that is keeping their memories alive. Any help with that would be welcome.

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