Maeve Kennedy McKean, the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and her 8-year-old son, Gideon, are presumed dead after going missing while canoeing in the Chesapeake Bay on Thursday.
McKean's husband, David McKean, shared the news in an emotional Facebook post on Friday, sharing that, "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... 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 pair were last seen drifting several miles off-shore just after 4:30 p.m. local time on Thursday, according to a press release from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department that did not disclose the victim's identities. 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.
A statement from the Maryland Natural Resources Police, who were 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."
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.
David McKean shared more details about the incident in his Facebook post, noting that the family had been self-quarantining in a home owned by Maeve's mother, Kathleen, which sits on a small, shallow cove off of the Chesapeake. The mother and son were playing kickball, and when their ball went into the water, "they got into a canoe, intending simply to retrieve the ball, and somehow got pushed by wind or tide into the open bay." He added that the canoe has since been recovered.
"Gideon was 8, but he may as well have been 38," the father shared. "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 accidentally 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... 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."
Of his wife, McKean said, "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... She was the brightest light I have ever known."
The pair share two other children, 7-year-old Gabrielle and 2-year-old Toby. "At seven, Gabriella is heartbroken, but she amazes me with her maturity and grace," McKean wrote. "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."