Angela Madsen, Paralympian rower, U.S. Marine vet, dies in Pacific Ocean

June 24 (UPI) -- Angela Madsen, a paralympic medalist and a U.S. Marine veteran, died in her attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean. She was 60.

Madsen's wife, Debra Madsen, said Madsen died Sunday. Soraya Simi, who was making a documentary about the solo row attempt, confirmed the death.


Madsen attempted to become the first paraplegic, first openly gay athlete and the oldest woman to row across the Pacific Ocean. She departed with her 20-foot rowboat, Row of Life, in April from Los Angeles and had a goal to reach Honolulu in four months.

Debra Madsen said in a statement that her wife was not responding to text messages Sunday and a tracker showed her boat was drifting instead of being rowed.

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The U.S. Coast Guard sent a plane to fly over the area and it spotted Angela Madsen in the water and tethered to the boat. Polynesia, a German-registered container ship, arrived Monday and recovered Madsen's body.

A tracker on her Row of Life documentary website says Madsen was at sea for 60 days and was 1,275 nautical miles from Hawaii.


Row of Life Teaser from Soraya Simi on Vimeo.

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Madsen won four gold medals and a silver medal at the world championships during her career with the United States National Team.

She first rowed for the United States National Team in 2002, when para-rowing debuted at the World Rowing Championships in Seville, Spain. She also competed in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

In addition to rowing, Madsen competed in track and field at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games. She won a bronze medal in the shot put at London 2012.

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"Angela was really stubborn and would not take no for an answer, whether that was raising funds for adaptive rowing, advocating for veterans, or even trying to get her to change her rowing stroke," Madsen's rowing partner Scott Brown told

"But that stubbornness, combined with her intense love of rowing, translated into so many great things that she was able to share with us along the way. Angela was happiest out on that wide-open ocean she loved."

Madsen sustained a serious back injury while in the Marines in her early 20s. She became a paraplegic after she attempted corrective back surgery.

Madsen had six Guinness World Records. She previously rowed across the Atlantic Ocean (with a partner) and Indian Ocean (with a team) and circled Great Britain (with three other women).

She also tried to solo row across the Pacific Ocean in 2013, but had to be rescued at sea on the eighth day of that attempt. In 2014, she rowed from California to Hawaii with partner Tara Remington.

Notable deaths of 2020

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Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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