Search suspended for two members of Kennedy family lost in Chesapeake Bay

Two members of the Kennedy family, Maeve Kennedy McKean and her 8-year-old son, Gideon, have been reported missing in the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland, since Thursday. By Veronica Stracqualursi and Lindy Royce, CNN

(CNN) -- The search for two members of the Kennedy family -- Maeve Kennedy McKean and her son, Gideon -- was suspended 26 hours after they were reported missing in the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland, the Coast Guard said Friday night.

Authorities confirmed McKean and her 8-year-old son were the missing individuals. They were last seen on Thursday evening.

"This was a difficult case, and even more difficult to make the decision to suspend the search," said Cmdr. Matthew Fine, deputy sector commander and active search suspension authority at Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region command center, late Friday night. "Our crews and partners did everything they could to find them. We've kept the family informed at every step during the search, and our thoughts are with them tonight."

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, McKean's mother, said earlier in the evening that the search had turned from a rescue to a recovery mission.

"With profound sadness, I share the news that the search for my beloved daughter Maeve and grandson Gideon has turned from rescue to recovery," Townsend said in a statement.

"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," the statement read. "My family thanks all for the outpouring of love and prayers as we grieve and try to bear this devastating loss."

McKean is the granddaughter of former US Attorney General and US Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. She is a public health and human rights lawyer and serves as the executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative.

McKean's husband, David McKean, wrote in a Facebook post Friday that "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."

"At this time, our family asks for privacy and that everyone keep Maeve and Gideon in their prayers," the Kennedy family said in a statement provided by a spokesperson earlier Friday.

David McKean remembered his wife and son in his Friday post.

"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," he wrote in part. And of his wife he said, "She was my everything. She was my best friend and my soulmate."

The family was self-quarantining at Townsend's home on the Chesapeake Bay, when Gideon and Maeve were playing kickball and one of them kicked the ball into the water, according to David McKean. "They got into a canoe, intending simply to retrieve the ball, and somehow got pushed by wind or tide into the open bay," he wrote.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, also a grandchild of Robert F. Kennedy, memorialized the two on Twitter, saying, "We love you Maeve. We love you Gideon. Our family has lost two of the brightest lights. Grateful for the prayers. Hold your loved ones tight."

Coast Guard officials had received a report of "two individuals were seen struggling to return to shore in a canoe" near Herring Bay, 10 miles south of Annapolis, and were "not seen again," according to a statement Friday from the Coast Guard.

Capt. Erik Kornmeyer of the Anne Arundel Fire Department told CNN that a call from a "concerned citizen" came in at 4:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

Queen Anne Police Department, Arundel Police Department, Maryland Natural Resource Police, and Maryland State Police have been assisting in the search, the Coast Guard said in a statement Friday.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Friday that "an intensive search has been underway since yesterday" for Maeve and Gideon.

During a news conference, Hogan said he spoke with McKean's mother Friday morning.

"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.

McKean also advised the Obama administration for the State Department's global AIDS program and has volunteered in Mozambique for the Peace Corps, established by her great uncle, former President John F. Kennedy. Last year, McKean, along with Townsend and former US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, wrote an op-ed for Politico in which they denounced the anti-vaccine views of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., calling them "tragically wrong."

The McKeans also have a 7-year-old daughter Gabriella and a 2-year-old son Toby.

Over the decades, the Kennedy family has endured high-profile tragedies. Both McKean's grandfather and great uncle were assassinated. McKean's cousin, John F. Kennedy Jr., and his wife, Carolyn, were killed in a plane crash two decades ago.

This story has been updated with comment from David McKean and Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III.

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