The body of former World Wrestling Entertainment star Shad Gaspard was found at Venice Beach in California, three days after he was swept away by a riptide as he and his 10-year-old son swam.
Gaspard, 39, and his son, Aryeh, were swimming Sunday afternoon at Marina Beach in Venice, California when they were caught by a wave and pulled away from shore by the riptide.
Lifeguards sought to save them both, but the wrestler reportedly told them to “take my son.” They did and, when he was safely ashore, they returned to search for Gaspard and were unable to locate him.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Lifeguard Division tweeted Thursday (NZT) that authorities had answered a call at the Venice Pier to a report of a body “along the shoreline … that matches the description of Sunday’s missing swimmer.” Police say the body was identified as Gaspard’s.
A section chief in the Lifeguard Division described the terrifying situation that the Gaspards quickly found themselves in on the first weekend the beaches were reopened to swimmers and surfers during the novel coronavirus pandemic. With swells reaching 2m, a lifeguard tried to get a “rescue can” – a floater used to tow swimmers to shore – to them, but said, “because of the size of the waves, the boy couldn’t secure it.”
“The best way I can describe it,” Kenichi Haskett, the section chief, told ESPN, “is like being inside a front-loading washing machine. The waves keep crashing on you, pushing you down … I’ve been through that, that kind of rescues. You think you might die.”
Haskett said that the lifeguard faced the reality that he could not save both, particularly because Gaspard was 2m and weighed around 122.5kg.
“Based on the gentleman’s size and the conditions in the water …,” Haskett said, “these are choices we do not want to make.”
The Coast Guard tweeted Wednesday that it had suspended the search for Gaspard “after 16.5 hours of searching with multiple rescue assets covering 70 square nautical miles and seven search patterns.”
In an Instagram post-Tuesday, Gaspard’s’ family expressed gratitude to “the lifeguards, coast guard, divers, fire and police departments for their continued efforts to help find our beloved Shad,” and added: “Shad is a fighter, a warrior and a magical soul. We are hoping and praying for his safe return. As a family, we thank you all for your concern and well wishes. Please continue to keep sending your positivity and prayers to our beloved Shad.”
In the WWE, Gaspard was part of the tag-team group Cryme Time, along with his partner, JTG. He retired in 2010 and had roles on TV and in movies, including Kevin Hart’s 2015 comedy, “Get Hard.”