Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughter and her young son missing on Chesapeake Bay, family says

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A Kennedy family spokesperson confirmed Friday that two missing people last seen in a canoe off Chesapeake Bay on Thursday evening are Maeve Kennedy McKean, 40, and her eight-year-old son, Gideon. Kennedy McKean is the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy and daughter of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Maryland lieutenant governor.

“At this time our family asks for privacy and that everyone keep Maeve and Gideon in their prayers,” said a statement from a family spokesman. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan also confirmed their identities at the start of his coronavirus press conference Friday, and said an “intensive search” was underway. 

“I reached out to, and spoke with Lieutenant Governor Townsend this morning,” Hogan said. “And, on behalf of the people of Maryland, I expressed our most heartfelt sympathies and prayers to her and to her entire family during this difficult time.” 

The pair were last seen drifting several miles off shore just after 4:30 p.m. Thursday, according to a press release from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department that did not disclose the victim’s identifies. A water rescue dispatch arrived shortly after a concerned citizen at Columbia Beach community pier in Shady Side, Maryland, placed a 911 call, saying they saw two people drifting in a small canoe. 

The Coast Guard said Friday night that they are ending their role in the search for Maeve Kennedy McKean and her 8-year old son Gideon McKean, a source familiar with the matter told CBS News. State and local authorities will continue the search through the weekend.

“We are looking at a situation where they may never be recovered,” said the official, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the ongoing search.

A statement from the Maryland Natural Resources Police, which is leading the investigation, said Friday that a “preliminary investigation revealed that the pair may have been paddling the canoe from a residence in Shady Side, MD out into the bay to retrieve a ball and were unable to paddle back to shore.”

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Maeve Kennedy McKean

Getty Images


Anne Arundel Fire Captain Erik Kornmeyer said that, despite arriving within five minutes of the call, the fire dispatch was unable to reach the canoe. “Currents were pretty fast, they moved out of sight pretty quickly,” he said, adding that conditions were “rough and windy” Thursday night.

Boats and helicopters from the fire department, the City of Annapolis Fire Department, and the United States Coast Guard quickly began to search the bay, Kornmeyer said. Over two hours later, at 7 p.m., a canoe and paddle were found several miles from where Mckean and her son were first spotted.

“At approximately 7:00 p.m., an overturned canoe, matching the approximate description of the one which the pair were in, was located,” the Natural Resources Police said. 

The U.S. Coast Guard and a fireboat from the City of Annapolis Fire Department found the canoe and paddle east of Rockhold Creek in Deale, Maryland, near Herring Bay, according to the Anne Arundel County Fire Department press release. The search was called off at 7:30 p.m. “due to darkness,” and resumed early Friday morning.

The National Weather Service said conditions will be hazardous to small craft on Chesapeake Bay all day Friday. The NWS issued a “small craft advisory” for the bay until midnight Friday, citing 15 to 20 knot (nautical miles per hour) winds, gusts of up to 30 knots, and three feet waves this afternoon, with similar conditions into the evening. 

Ed O’Keefe contributed reporting.



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