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UPDATE: Ex-LG Says Search for Daughter, Grandson ‘Has Turned From Rescue to Recovery’

Maeve McKean. Georgetown University Global Health Initiative photo

Former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) released a statement Friday night acknowledging that the search for her daughter and grandson, who are missing after their canoe apparently capsized in the Chesapeake Bay Thursday afternoon, “has turned from rescue to recovery.”

Rescue authorities have been searching for Maeve Townsend McKean, 40, and her 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, since receiving a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. Thursday that two people in a canoe were struggling to come ashore.

“An intensive search has been underway since late yesterday,” Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said during a State House news conference Friday to update Marylanders on the state response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But when darkness fell Friday, authorities still had not found the bodies of the missing boaters.

Maeve Townsend McKean is the second of four daughters of Townsend, and her ex-husband, David Townsend, a professor at St. John’s College in Annapolis.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who served as lieutenant governor from 1995 to 2003 under former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, is the daughter of the late U.S. attorney general and senator, Robert F. Kennedy.

The U.S. Coast Guard first issued a news release Thursday night detailing the search, and said federal, state and local authorities were patrolling the bay by helicopter and boat in search of the missing persons.

Hogan was the first government official to formally reveal that the missing boaters were Townsend’s daughter and grandson, though their identities had been reported by media outlets about an hour earlier.

Hogan said he spoke to Townsend Friday morning and “on behalf of the people of Maryland, expressed my heartfelt sympathies and prayers.”

The Baltimore Sun reported that an individual saw two people in a canoe near Herring Bay in the late afternoon struggling to make it ashore, and called 911.

According to multiple accounts, members of Townsend’s family were playing kickball in the backyard of her home in Shady Side when an errant ball fell into the water. McKean and her son jumped into a canoe to try to retrieve the ball, but with winds whipping up to about 30 miles per hour, they were unable to get ashore.

The Sun reported that authorities found a canoe and paddle east of Rockhold Creek in Deale around 7 p.m. but were unable to find the missing individuals.

McKean, a public health and human rights lawyer, had been the director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative.

“Our Maeve devoted her life to helping society’s most vulnerable,” Townsend said in her statement Friday night. “She was a Peace Corps Volunteer who pursued a career in law to give voice to the voiceless. She was Executive Director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative and taught bioethics and human rights as an adjunct professor, where she gave hope to those who need it most.”

Maeve McKean married her husband, David McKean, a lawyer who is legal and policy director with the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable in Washington, D.C., at the Women’s National Democratic Club in D.C. in 2009.

In addition to Gideon, they have a daughter, Gabriella, and a son, Toby.

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“My heart is 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. My family thanks all for the outpouring of love and prayers as we grieve and try to bear this devastating loss.”


In a tweet Friday afternoon, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) called news of the boating accident “an unimaginable tragedy.”

“Just praying that, somehow, David, Kathleen, David McKean and every member of the Townsend, McKean and Kennedy families will eventually find resolution, understanding and peace,” he wrote.

This story will be updated.

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UPDATE: Ex-LG Says Search for Daughter, Grandson ‘Has Turned From Rescue to Recovery’