WWE great Shad Gaspard gave his own life to save his 10 year-old son in a swimming accident at Venice Beach, California, a lifeguard has revealed in a harrowing and heartbreaking first-time account of the tragedy.
Yelling ‘Save my son, Save my son,’ the 6ft 7in wrestler – struggling in waves up to 8 feet high – threw the boy toward rescuers before being dragged under by a deadly rip tide and drowning, the lifeguard Thomas Swift, said in newly-filed court documents obtained by DailyMail.com
Swift was able to save Gaspard’s son Aryeh, who goes by A.G.
But Gaspard’s wife, Siliana, filed a wrongful death suit against the City and County of Los Angeles and the state of California alleging ‘dangerous conditions’ at Venice Beach and ‘negligence’.
She claimed that there were not enough signs to warn 39-year-old Gaspard and A.G. of the ‘danger or risk’ of swimming there. She’s also accusing lifeguards of being slow to react, poorly trained, understaffed and lacking proper equipment.
LA County – which is responsible for public safety at Venice Beach – denied her claims, saying there are plenty of signs warning of rip currents and other risks and insisting that lifeguards are properly trained and equipped. LA officials filed a motion asking LA Superior Court for a ‘summary judgement’ to exonerate them from any blame in Gaspard’s death.
And now in support of that motion, lifeguard Swift – a one-time member of the U.S. National Lifesaving Team – has given his disturbing version of what happened that fateful day, May 17, 2020, in a declaration to the court.
Former WWE wrestler drowned on May 17, 2020 while swimming with his 10-year-old son on Venice Beach. A lifeguard revealed Gaspard yelled ‘Save my son, Save my son!’ and threw the boy toward rescuers before being dragged under by a deadly rip tide
Gaspard’s wife, Siliana, filed a wrongful death suit against the City and County of Los Angeles alleging ‘dangerous conditions’ at Venice Beach and ‘negligence’. She’s seen leaving the beach after the tragic incident
A 30-year life-saving veteran, Swift said conditions were so rough that he and another lifeguard had to rescue six other swimmers not long before he spotted Gaspard and his son A.G. in the water.
On that fateful day, waves were up to eight feet with four to six foot surf and strong rip-currents.
Gaspard is best known as a member of the wrestling team Cryme Tyme with fellow WWE star JTG
‘I saw two individuals approximately 200 yards south of my location heading out into the surf and observed a set of approximately 4-8 ft waves coming in,’ he said in his four-page declaration.
‘After the third wave in the set, I observed these two individuals (who he later found out were Gaspard and A.G.) to be taken off their feet and they started drifting in a northerly direction in a lateral current that was moving at a speed of approximately 5-10 knots.
‘I immediately phoned Santa Monica Headquarters that I was going out to assist these two individuals. I took my rescue can and, based on my training and experience, I ran diagonally fourth in the direction the rip current would take decedent (Gaspard) and A.G. in order to try to cut them off. I entered the water with at least one swim fin and started dolphin diving and swimming to Gaspard and A.G.
‘When I was approximately 20 feet from Gaspard and A.G., a large wave approximately 6-8ft high with lots of water volume was approaching.
‘Just as the wave was about to come down, I observed Gaspard push A.G. by his shoulders approximately five feet in my direction. As soon as Gaspard pushed A.G., the wave crashed directly on Gaspard while the white water from the wave pulled both me and A.G. under….and held everyone under the water for several seconds.
‘When I surfaced, A.G. was approximately five feet to my right and Gaspard was approximately 20 feet to my left…..I swam to A.G, gave him my rescue can, and told him to hold on to it in an effort to stabilize A.G. so that I could assist Gaspard.
‘When the next wave hit, A.G. let go of the rescue can. I retrieved the rescue can and gave it back to A.G. After this second wave hit, I lost sight of Gaspard.
‘It was clear to me that A.G. was disoriented and he would not be able to hold on to the rescue can in the rough ocean conditions……. I determined I would not be able to swim out to Gaspard’s location and keep A.G. safe at the same time.’
Lifeguard Thomas Swift described Gaspard’s final moments in newly-filed court documents obtained by DailyMail.com
Swift added, ‘Due to the rough ocean conditions and the white water pushing us into shower, the distance between the two victims and the inability of A.G. to maintain hold of the rescue can, I made the decision to bring A.G. to shore and then return to assist Gaspard.
‘Based on these conditions, it was my assessment that if I did not get A.G. back to the shore, he would have died.’
After handing off A.G. to two rescue volunteer when they reached the shore, Swift – a certified emergency medical technician and an American Red Cross lifeguard instructor – plunged back into the ocean to try to save Gaspard.
‘I swam out to sea where I thought Gaspard would be,’ he went on. ‘As I swam, I could see two surfers ahead of me and approximately 20 yards to my left, paddling out toward Gaspard in an effort to assist.
‘The surfers reached Gaspard first, waved to me, and said Gaspard was right under them……The two surfers told me they were with Gaspard for approximately 10-15 seconds before he went under.
‘They reported that they were pushing their boards toward Gaspard but he appeared disoriented , would not grab on to their boards and just kept saying, ‘save my son, save my son.’
Swift said he and another lifeguard who had arrived on the scene, dived several times to try to find Gaspard. A rescue boat and other lifeguards joined the search, but they couldn’t locate Gaspard. He was swept out to sea and his lifeless body was later found close to the shoreline.
In her original lawsuit documents, Siliana Gaspard told a different story, claiming that when lifeguards ‘saw Shad and A.G. struggling in the water they did not do anything for an unreasonable and negligent amount of time.’
The would-be rescuers ‘eventually went into the water but without the proper equipment for their duties to assist people in the water like Shad Gaspard and A.G.’ she claimed, adding that the lifeguards ‘chose to only assist A.G. and left Shad Gaspard in the water to die.’
Siliana also alleged that lifeguard stations at Venice Beach were ‘negligently understaffed and that LA county officials ‘were negligent in the lack of proper training and supervision and negligent in the hiring, retaining, training and supervision of lifeguards.
‘The defendants’ activities, or lack thereof increased the degree of dangerousness of the condition of the scene, causing the death of Shad Gaspard’
Gaspard married wife Siliana Gaspard in 2009 and they share one son together. Gaspard had launched an acting career since leaving the wrestling world in 2010
In her lawsuit , Siliana claimed that when lifeguards ‘saw Shad and A.G. struggling in the water they did not do anything for an unreasonable and negligent amount of time’
Siliana Gaspard remained on the beach the day Gaspard went missing and was seen staring out into the ocean while the coast guard conducted a search
Swift’s boss, Daniel Murphy, Section Chief of the Lifeguard Services Division of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, countered Liliana’s claims in a declaration to the court.
He maintained in the newly-filed legal document that ‘a dive team, multiple lifeguard units, rescue boats, a helicopter, a personal watercraft, Baywatch Del Rey and Baywatch Malibu were deployed to search for Mr. Gaspard following his submersion but they were unable to locate him.’
Murphy also included a chapter of the Ocean Academy Manuel which details the ‘critical life-saving procedures, equipment and techniques required of Ocean Lifeguards.
And he listed signs like ‘CAUTION – BEWARE OF RIP CURRENTS’ and ‘BE MINDFUL OF THE OPEN OCEAN AND SWIM/SURF WITHIN YOUR ABILITY’ that are on display at Venice Beach.
Gaspard – who was originally known in the WWF as Da Beast in the tag team Cryme Time with partner JTG – quit pro wrestling in 2011 to begin an acting career in TV and movies. He was in 2015’s Get Hard with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.
In a tribute to Gaspard, former wrestler turned movie star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson said, ‘Shad drowned in the ocean, but not before instructing lifeguards to save his son first. That’s the love of a father.’
The next court hearing in Siliana’s lawsuit is scheduled for May 17 – exactly two years to the day since Gaspard’s death.