The Kennedy family is mourning the loss of Robert F. Kennedy's 22-year-old granddaughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, who died at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts Thursday.
District Attorney Michael O’Keefe for Massachusetts' Cape & Islands District confirmed her death in a statement to USA TODAY, saying police responded at 3 p.m. on Thursday to a call about "an unresponsive female, later identified as Saoirse Kennedy Hill."
"Hill was transported to Cape Cod Hospital where she was pronounced deceased," the statement reads. "The cause and manner of death are pending the toxicology report."
The Kennedy family also confirmed her death in a statement to the Associated Press, saying, "Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse."
"She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit," the statement said, noting that Hill was passionate about human rights, women's empowerment and volunteer work in indigenous communities. "We will love her and miss her forever."
Hill was the only child of Courtney Kennedy Hill, the fifth of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's eleven children. Hill's father is Paul Michael Hill, one of four falsely convicted in the 1974 Irish Republican Army bombings of two pubs.
Robert’s widow Ethel, 91, said the "world is a little less beautiful today" following her granddaughter's sudden death.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. mourned his niece on Friday.
"We’ve lost our daughter and our children, their sister. Saoirse was fierce, both in her love for her family and yearning for justice," he wrote under an Instagram photo gallery, showing Hill doing everything from moving into her dorm room and being onstage with Kenny Chesney to leaping from a jetty and spending time with her extended family.
Kennedy called Hill "a fearless adventurer," writing that "she inspired curiosity and daring in her friends. But her greatest gift was to find humor in everything and to give us all the gift of her laughter - and our own. The gaping hole that she leaves in our family is too large to ever heal."
Maria Shriver, RFK's niece, posted on Instagram Friday to say that "a brave young woman left our world yesterday."
"She left a gaping hole in the lives of all those who loved her dearly," Shriver said about her relative. "May God bless her. May God hold her parents during this unbearable hour and give them the strength to make it thru. Amen."
Shriver added in the caption: "Life is fragile and heartbreaking. It turns upside down in a minute. Love your children, hold them tight. Love your family, hold them close. Love your friends, keep them near. Be gentle with others, as so many are fragile and struggling. Actually, I think it’s best to assume everyone is struggling, so treat everyone with love, tenderness, and compassion."
Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy told NBC News’ Kate Snow that Hill was "a real hero" in the Kennedy family.
Mental illness "affects every single family in America," including his own, continued Patrick, who is an outspoken advocate for health care reform.
Hill had written about her own struggles three years ago in a high school newspaper, and Kennedy said his cousin's daughter "opened the door for her peers to also come out and not feel shamed by this illness. We mourn her loss but her memory will live on as someone who wasn’t going to keep silent and wasn’t going to be feeling as if she had something shameful but rather something medical that she sought treatment for."
Kerry Kennedy, RFK's daughter, took to Instagram Friday with an emotional message about her niece.
"Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse," she wrote. "Her life was filled with hope, promise and love. She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel, who said, 'The world is a little less beautiful today.' "
She continued: "She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit. Saoirse was passionately moved by the causes of human rights and women’s empowerment and found great joy in volunteer work, working alongside indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico. We will love her and miss her forever."
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Vandana Ravikumar
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Saoirse Kennedy Hill death: Kennedy family mourns RFK's granddaughter