Angela Madsen, a three-time Paralympian rower and US Marine veteran, died at age 60 while trying to become the first openly gay athlete, first paraplegic, and oldest woman to row across the Pacific Ocean alone.
Madsen first set sail in April in a 20-foot rowboat. Her goal was to reach Hawaii within four months.
Her wife, Deb Madsen, confirmed her death in a Facebook post, explaining that she hadn’t heard from Angela since the weekend, when Angela had said she was going into the water to do some maintenance on her boat.
When Deb checked the boat’s tracking, she found that it appeared to be simply drifting rather than steered by an oar. That’s when she got concerned.
“She was about as far from any land as she could get and the communication can be a challenge, I was hopeful but still had a feeling of heaviness in my chest,” Deb wrote.
A Coast Guard plane discovered Angela’s body on Monday, still tethered to her boat.
“Angela was living her dream,” Deb wrote. “She loved being on the water as you could see from the photos she sent.”
Deb further explained that she’s “sad but ok.” She added, “I never planned a life without her so be patient with me while I figure all of this out. Thank you for all your support.”
Documentary filmmaker Soraya Simi had been chronicling Angela’s voyage. Simi wrote on Instagram that this is “the single heaviest moment of my life.”
“She was willing to die at sea doing the thing she loved most,” Simi wrote of Angela. “She was a hell of a woman and one of the most influential and inspiring people in my life. I hope to live with a fraction of the fierceness of spirit Angela had.”
Angela was paralyzed in 1993 after a back surgery. She competed in the Paralympics three times and earned bronze medals in rowing and shot put.