Daughter, grandson of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, RFKs daughter, missing in canoe accident

The Kennedy family has a history of tragic deaths.

Editor’s Note: Prior to the family announcing their deaths, an earlier version of this story said the governor had confirmed Maeve Kennedy and her son had drowned, which he did not say, both were still being categorized as missing at the time. This story has also been updated to clarify Saoirse Roisin Kennedy Hill’s drug overdose was accidental. We apologize for the errors.

The daughter and grandson of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are missing and presumed dead after a canoeing accident, the family confirmed. Townsend confirmed late Friday the search had transitioned to a recovery operation.

Townsend is the eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 while running for president, and the niece of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated five years earlier in Dallas.

Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, Townsend’s daughter, and her 8-year-old son, Gideon, got into a canoe Thursday in the water of Chesapeake Bay off their home in Shady Side, Maryland, “to retrieve a ball and were unable to paddle back to shore,” according to Maryland Natural Resources Police.

Townsend released a statement Friday night saying, “With profound sadness, I share the news that the search for my beloved daughter Maeve and grandson Gideon has turned from rescue to recovery.”

“Our hearts are 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,” the statement continued. “My family thanks all for the outpouring of love and prayers as we grieve and try to bear this devastating loss.”

A source close to McKean’s family had previously said in a statement on behalf of the family: “At this time, our family asks for privacy and that everyone keep Maeve and Gideon in their prayers.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan confirmed the two had not been found at the start of a press conference on Friday afternoon. Police had earlier confirmed a canoe matching the description of the one that was missing was found overturned on Thursday night.

“I reached out to, and spoke with lieutenant governor Townsend this morning 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,” Hogan said.

Authorities said Maeve, 40, and her son were unable to paddle back to shore due to the windy conditions.

Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, the grandson of RFK, posted Saturday morning on Twitter, “Our family has lost two of the brightest lights.”

Maeve was an adjunct professor in bioethics and human rights and was executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative. She also served on the boards of the Brady Campaign, a gun control nonprofit, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights charity.

Maryland State Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and local police and fire departments took part in the search.

Townsend served as lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003.

The Kennedy family has a long history of tragic incidents. In addition to the deaths of Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, the president’s son, John F. Kennedy Jr., and his wife were killed in a plane crash in July 1999. Robert F. Kennedy’s son, David, died of a drug overdose in 1984, and another of Robert’s son, Michael, died in a skiing accident in 1997.

It was just last August that Saoirse Roisin Kennedy Hill, also a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, died of an accidental drug overdose at the Kennedy family compound in Massachusetts.

ABC News’ Kendall Karson contributed to this report.

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