Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean – the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy – and McKean’s son, Gideon, are both presumed dead after a canoeing accident at Chesapeake Bay. A search and rescue has been called off after two days of searching yield no sign of the pair. An eyewitness spotted the two in trouble and drifting far from shore in choppy waters before the accident. The Coast Guard found their capsized canoe miles outside of the cove where they initially departed from in search of a ball that had been kicked into the water.

David McKean, a Washington human rights lawyer and Townsend McKean’s husband, posted on Facebook acknowledging the tragedy.


“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,” he wrote on Friday evening. “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.”

McKean explained what he believes led to the death of his wife and son.

“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 D.C. to run around,” he wrote. “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.”

A history of tragedy has closely followed the Kennedy’s in years past. “The Kennedy Curse,” as it has come to be known as, has brought unceasing tragic events that begin with the death of naval solider, Joseph P. Kennedy, age 29, who was the eldest of the Kennedy’s. He died in August 1944 while flying off the coast of Normandy, France, during his time with the U.S. Navy in World War II.

His death followed by John F. Kennedy’s assassination – who was the 35th president of the United States –  in Dallas in 1963 at age 46. The third of the siblings, Robert F. Kennedy, was gunned down in Los Angeles in 1968. And, unforgettably, John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death in a plane crash with his wife, Carolyn Bessette, in 1999.

Another granddaughter of Robert Kennedy, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, died Aug. 1 due to an accidental drug overdose at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. She was also the younger sister of Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean.

McKean was the executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative and taught bioethics and human rights. She was an adjunct professor at the university. McKean is survived by her husband and remaining two children.

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