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Recovery search underway for Kennedy Townsend's daughter, grandson

Authorities were searching for the daughter and a grandson of former Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Friday after a canoe they were paddling in the Chesapeake Bay didn't return to shore.

Canoe they were paddling in Chesapeake Bay didn't return to shore, authorities say

The Bay Bridge is seen in Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Md., on May 2010. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Authorities were searching for the daughter and a grandson of former Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Friday after a canoe they were paddling in the Chesapeake Bay didn't return to shore.

By Friday night, the family said in a statement that the search for Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and McKean's 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, had shifted 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," Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said in a statement, according to news outlets.

A Maryland Natural Resources Police spokesperson said authorities suspended the search Friday night but would resume Saturday morning.

Kennedy Townsend, who served two terms as Maryland's lieutenant governor, is the eldest daughter of the late U.S. attorney general and U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy, and niece of the late president John F. Kennedy.

"I reached out to and spoke with Lt. Gov. 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," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in the afternoon.

Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, centre, is seen with her son Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, bottom right, in this undated photo. (Twitter via AP)

The search started Thursday afternoon after the state Natural Resources Police responded to a report of two people on a canoe in the Chesapeake Bay who appeared to be overtaken by strong winds.

A statement from the agency, which didn't name the missing people, said they may have been paddling the canoe from a home in Shady Side, Md., to retrieve a ball and couldn't paddle back to shore. An overturned canoe matching the one used by the missing people was found on Thursday night, the agency said.

"News of this tragedy hit me and my family hard this morning," said Anne Arundel County executive Steuart Pittman.

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference on Friday in Annapolis, Md. (Brian Witte/Associated Press)

"We are holding Kathleen and her family in the light, and holding our own loved ones a little closer as we reflect on their pain and their loss," he said in a statement.

Maeve McKean, a public health and human rights lawyer, has served as executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative, news outlets report. The initiative's website says her work focuses on "the intersection of global health and human rights." McKean previously served as an associate research professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health.

The Maryland State Police, U.S. coast guard, and local police and fire departments joined in the search.

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