ESPN's Mark Kriegel has a new story on his friendship with former WWE Superstar Shad Gaspard and Shad's disappearance while swimming with his 10 year old son Aryeh at Venice Beach in California on Sunday.
The lifeguard who first responded to Shad and his son at around 4pm local time on Sunday, between 50 and 70 yards off the shore, said the Gaspards were caught in a strong rip current, enveloped in what's called an "impact zone."
"The best way I can describe it," said Kenichi Haskett, Section Chief of the LA County Fire Department - Lifeguard Division who personally debriefed the lifeguard. "is like being inside a front-loading washing machine. The waves keep crashing on you, pushing you down. ... I've been through that, those kind of rescues. You think you might die."
This was the first weekend where Los Angeles County opened its beaches since the coronavirus stay-at-home order was issued. Swells were 6 feet and the current was fast, water was choppy due to bad weather. Shad and his son were now 200 yards north of where the lifeguard first spotted them. The lifeguard tried to deliver a "rescue can" (small buoy-like device to tow distressed swimmers back to shore) to Shad and his son, but the boy was unable to secure it due to the size of the waves.
The lifeguard, who also has a middle school-aged son, was now presented with an excruciating dilemma as he recognized how big Shad was - 6 foot 6 inches, around 270 pounds.
"Based on the gentlemen's size and the conditions in the water...," Haskett said, "these are choices we do not want to make."
The lifeguard reported that Shad told him to rescue his son first. "Take my son," Shad said.
Less than three minutes later, Shad's son was safe on the shore, physically unharmed but deeply distraught.
"Dad told me to push off to the guy," Shad's son told Steve Smith, a firefighter-paramedic from Rescue 63 in Venice. Shad's son kept saying that: "Dad told me to push off to the guy."
The lifeguard then turned back to make a quick return to the ocean, and saw Shad again.
"A wave pushed him under in the impact zone," said Haskett. "He didn't resurface after that."
The rescue divers went in immediately after Shad. The Coast Guard then got involved with the search & rescue attempt, and the search went on until sundown on Sunday. The search resumed at 7am ET on Monday, and went on for several hours, despite bad weather and rough water. As noted earlier, the Coast Guard suspended their search earlier today but the Los Angeles Police Department is still looking for Shad, who is still considered to be a missing person.
Kriegel also wrote about his friendship with Gaspard. He relayed how WWE Chairman Vince McMahon once told Shad that there are two kinds of people - those who want to mourn the hero, and those who want him to return. Vince's theory of the audience, Shad told Kriegel, was based in part on his favorite movie, the classic western "Shane," which ends with a boy calling to his hero, leaving the audience to wonder if Shane is mortally wounded, will he live, or will he return?
You can click here for the recent statements from Vince and WWE on the Shad incident and support for the Gaspard family. You can click here for the recent statement from Shad's wife Siliana. The latest on the search for Gaspard can be found at this link.
WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon also took to Twitter this afternoon and commented on Shad, also sending well wishes on behalf of husband Triple H.
She wrote, "All of @tripleh and my prayers, love and strength are with the Gaspard family, especially his wife and son. [red heart emoji]"
Stay tuned for more on the Gaspard accident. You can see Stephanie's full tweet below:
All of @tripleh and my prayers, love and strength are with the Gaspard family, especially his wife and son. ??— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) May 19, 2020