Former WWE star Shad Gaspard disappeared in rough water Sunday off the Southern California coast after his 10-year-old son was rescued by lifeguards.
A wave crashed over the 39-year-old Gaspard when he was about 50 yards from Venice Beach and he was swept out to sea at about 3:40 p.m., police said Monday.
A group of swimmers were in the water, right in front of a lifeguard tower, on Sunday when it became clear they needed help. A call about missing swimmers near 4200 S. Ocean Front Walk, LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said.
"A large set came through, got all that water moving and then they were pulled out in that rip current," Pono Barnes, of the LA County Fire Department, said.
County lifeguards responded, pulling Gaspard's 10-year-old son from the water. A law enforcement source said Gaspard told rescuers to help his son first. He was evaluated by LAFD paramedics but did not require hospitalization, Stewart said.
Gaspard, however, has not yet been located.
In an Instagram post early Monday morning, Siliana Gaspard, the WWE wrestler's wife, wrote her husband is missing and was "last seen wearing swim shorts" at the Marina del Rey beach on Sunday. The post has since been deleted.
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"He was a big guy. He had a big muscles but he had a bigger heart," said friend Lance Keys.
Keys joined others at the edge of the water in Marina del Rey Monday afternoon, presuming he may have lost the friend he met at Gold’s Gym in Venice.
Gaspard was part of Cryme Time, one of the WWE's most famous teams in the early 2000’s. After wrestling, he pursued a career in Hollywood, acting opposite Will Ferrell in the movie, "Get Hard."
But friends say Gaspard was first and foremost a family man.
"He loved his wife dearly. He loved his son. They were his life," Keys said.
After several weeks of closures, Los Angeles County beaches opened for activity this past weekend. Still, conditions in the water were anything but ideal. One Marina del Rey resident, Jason Wright, noted the waves seemed "too rough" for swimming.
Underwater searching for Gaspard was halted at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, county lifeguards said. Periodic land-based patrols continued through the night and underwater searching resumed 7 a.m. Monday with SONAR technology.
Ted Chen contributed to this report.