The search for two members of the Kennedy family whose canoe overturned in strong winds in the Chesapeake Bay on Thursday has “turned from rescue to recovery,” the family said in a statement on Friday night.
Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and her son Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, 8, have been missing since late Thursday afternoon, when they jumped into a canoe to retrieve a ball that went into the bay and were unable to paddle back to shore, according to the family and the Maryland Natural Resources Police.
In a statement late Friday, Ms. McKean’s mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, said the family was grieving.
“With profound sadness, I share the news that the search for my beloved daughter Maeve and grandson Gideon has turned from rescue to recovery,” Ms. Townsend said.
“My family thanks all for the outpouring of love and prayers as we grieve and try to bear this devastating loss,” she added.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ms. McKean’s uncle, said his niece had been playing ball with her children in the yard at Ms. Townsend’s home, where Ms. McKean’s family has been staying during the coronavirus pandemic, when the ball suddenly went into the water.
Ms. McKean and Gideon paddled out in a canoe to get the ball, but the wind was so strong it “blew them out into the bay,” Mr. Kennedy said.
He said he wasn’t sure if Ms. McKean and her son were wearing life jackets.
“I would assume they weren’t, because they were just retrieving a ball that was a few feet from shore,” Mr. Kennedy said on Friday from the West Coast. “They weren’t going for a canoe ride.”
A concerned citizen who called 911 from the Columbia Beach community pier at 4:30 p.m. reported seeing two people in a canoe “drifting in the bay,” according to the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
Boats, dive teams and helicopters from multiple law enforcement agencies began searching the bay, the authorities said.
Around 7 p.m. Thursday, an overturned canoe matching the description of the one Ms. McKean and her son had been using was found, the Natural Resources Police said.
The agency said it had suspended the search for Ms. McKean and her son on Friday night but would resume the mission on Saturday morning.
According to the Coast Guard, there were two- to three-foot waves and 29-mile-an-hour winds in the bay when the two disappeared off Shady Side, Md., south of Annapolis.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland called the disappearance “sad news.” He said that he had spoken to Ms. Townsend on Friday morning.
“On behalf of the people of Maryland, I expressed our most heartfelt sympathies and prayers to her and her entire family during this difficult time,” he said.
Ms. McKean was the executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative. She was also a Peace Corps volunteer and served on the board of the Brady Campaign and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, Ms. Townsend said.
“Our Maeve devoted her life to helping society’s most vulnerable,” she said. With her husband, David, Ms. McKean had three children: Gideon, Gabriella and Toby.
“Gideon, like his mom, was a star athlete who loved soccer, golf, and running,” Ms Townsend said. “He took after his parents in the most extraordinary ways.”
The disappearance evoked other misfortunes that have befallen the famous family, known for producing a president, senators and other Democratic leaders. Last August, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, 22, a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, died after what appeared to be an overdose at the family compound in Hyannis Port, Mass.