60-year-old Paralympian dies during solo crossing of Pacific
Angela Madsen, whose remarkable life took in a spell in the Marines, a string of gold medals and record setting rowing journeys, has passed away as she attempted a solo journey from California to Hawaii.
The 60-year-old’s death was confirmed by her wife, Deb Madsen, in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “With extreme sadness,” she wrote, “I must announce that Angela Madsen will not complete her solo row to Hawaii.”
Speaking to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Deb said the last she heard from her wife was when she was on route from Los Angeles to Honolulu in a 20-foot row boat, by text on Saturday. Angela had said she was going to enter the water to complete some maintenance. Deb had become concerned when she didn’t hear from Angela.
Shortly after, the US Coast Guard located her body.
“The [spotter] plane saw Angela in the water, apparently deceased, tethered to RowofLife, but was unable to relay that information due to poor satellite coverage,” Deb wrote on the Facebook page. The body has now been recovered.
Soraya Simi, who was making a documentary about the crossing, said she was shocked by the news.
“This is the single heaviest moment of my life,” Simi said in a statement to the Southern California News Group. “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.”
Madsen led a life to remember. After her brother told her she wouldn’t make it in the military, she joined the Marines. But ended up in a wheelchair after injuring her back playing for the Marines basketball team.
But despite the turn her life took, Madsen took up rowing and won several gold medals at the world rowing championships. She went on to row across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and also circumnavigated Great Britain in her boat.
Madsen’s athletics talents were not limited to rowing – she also won a bronze medal in shot put at the 2012 Paralympics in London.
She also set up a program for disabled rowers in California. “I wanted to create an opportunity for people with disabilities to row,” she said. “It’s one of the most inclusive activities people can do. We row three days a week and do it year-round. It’s completely free for people with disabilities.”
Simi said Madsen understood the danger involved in the 2,500 mile journey. “This was a clear risk going in since day one, and Angela was aware of that more than anyone else,” Simi said. “She was willing to die at sea doing the thing she loved most.”
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