Angela Madsen, a three-time Paralympian, died at sea while trying to row across the Pacific Ocean. She was 60 years old. Madsen's wife Debra confirmed the news on Facebook, writing that she last contacted her through text on Saturday. Madsen was looking to be the first paraplegic, first openly gay athlete and the oldest woman to row across the Pacific Ocean alone. She began in Los Angeles and was going to end in Hawaii.
"With extreme sadness I must announce that Angela Madsen will not complete her solo row to Hawaii," Debra wrote on Facebook. "I received her last text Saturday night. Sunday she was not responding to my text messages. When I checked the main message inbox she had not returned any messages. When I looked at the tracking it did not appear that she was rowing the boat, but rather that is was drifting."
Debra said documentary filmmaker Soraya Simi, who chronicling the voyage, contacted the U.S. Coast Guard. A plane conducted a fly-over search and located Madsen floating in the water, still tethered to the boat. On Monday, Madsen's body was recovered.
"This is the single heaviest moment of my life," Simi wrote in an Instagram post. "I am so sorry and so sad to write this. I know so many of you were cheering her on and wanted her to succeed. We are devastated. This was a clear risk going in since day one, and Angela was aware of that more than anyone else." Simi went on to say Madsen was "willing to die at sea doing the thing she loved most." She also said Madsen was 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." In a joint statement, Debra and Simi showed their appreciation for the support they received over the last few days.
"Deb and I are overwhelmed by the number of messages of people sharing our grief," they wrote on Instagram. "We had no idea so many were following this journey. As of yesterday, this is no longer a solo row— it’s a team sport. We are going to help finish what Angela started." According to the Orange County Register, Madsen became a paraplegic in 1993 after unsuccessful back surgery. She went on to be a star rower and shot putter.