Aspiring doctor who nearly drowned says he holds no ill will toward female friend who pushed him

Stephen Nartey May 13, 2024
Christopher Gilbert and his friend, Cassidy Holland, were just joking around when she pushed him into the water, he said. Photo Courtesy of Christopher Gilbert/New York Post

An aspiring doctor, who nearly drowned after being pushed into a Louisiana lake, has indicated that he holds no ill will toward the friend behind the incident. According to him, he aims to set the record straight about the frightening ordeal.

“I don’t think anyone did anything intentionally wrong,” Christopher Gilbert said of the April 14 incident which left him on life support for three weeks.

Gilbert and 10 friends were socializing and drinking at Rhett’s Tails and Shells, a restaurant in Farmerville, La., when the incident happened, according to the New York Post. Gilbert and his colleague, Cassidy Holland, started joking around before the incident.

“I took my keys, wallet, and phone out of my pockets and took my shoes off. I knew Cassidy wanted to push me in for messing with her, so I kind of played into it,” Gilbert, 26, told the Post.

“I thought maybe the water wouldn’t be as deep, and I would kind of hit the ground, get my footing and shoot up and come back up and grab the pier and just stand there,” he said during a Zoom interview from his home in Ruston, La.

“And then the water ended up being deeper than we thought and being a lot colder than we thought,” said Gilbert, who admitted he’s “not the strongest swimmer” and added, “I misjudged the situation.”

According to a police report, Gilbert was underwater for “no more than five minutes,” with a witness estimating the amount of time at “more like three or four minutes.” According to the police report, despite efforts by friends to rescue him, they began to panic when they realized they were unsuccessful.

Eventually, a restaurant customer named Dawson Foust intervened by jumping into the lake and saving Gilbert. Several individuals administered CPR on the dock until Gilbert was reported to be breathing independently with a heartbeat.

He was swiftly transported to a nearby hospital and later airlifted to LSU Oschner Health Shreveport, where he remained on life support for nearly three weeks before being discharged.

“The on-duty Nurse stated that the standard operating procedure for drowning victims is to put them on a vent for a while so the body can heal faster,” said the police report, which also said that just one day after the incident, Gilbert was responding to commands by ICU staff.

The incident gained widespread attention when Gilbert’s mother, Yolanda George, stated that her son, a pre-med student, was “brain dead” and experiencing organ failure after being pushed into the water and remaining submerged for 10 minutes.

A family lawyer also went on to suggest that the shove may have been racially motivated.

“I kind of hate the…[claims about] me being brain-dead, or this attempting for it to be some sort of race issue,” Gilbert told The Post.

He is concerned about the “brain dead” claim because, he said, “Who would want a doctor who has suffered brain damage?”

Holland, 22, insisted she and others attempted to save Gilbert, telling The Post, “I would never try to hurt him. Chris is a beautiful person, my co-worker, and dear friend. . . . I’m so thrilled at his recovery and getting back to normal.”

Gilbert refuted assertions made by attorney Claudia Payne, who was retained by his family, stating that they were seeking to press charges against Holland.

“That’s completely false,” he said.

Within two days of his return home, Gilbert reunited with his friends, including Holland.

“There was a lot of relief, and I felt like it was very emotional,” he said.

Gilbert’s new attorney, Aaron Lawrence, informed The Post that they have no intention of pursuing charges against Holland or the restaurant. Lawrence criticized certain statements made by George and Payne as “reckless.”

Payne did not respond to requests for comment.

“This has been a prime example of how sharing information without common sense has made an already bad situation so much worse,” Lawrence said.

Gilbert, who graduated from Louisiana Tech pre-med, initiated a GoFundMe campaign last week to aid in covering his medical costs. As of Friday, he had gathered nearly $20,000 of his $50,000 target.

However, attorney Lawrence revealed that the helicopter transport alone amounted to almost $65,000, estimating Gilbert’s overall medical expenses could reach $300,000. Despite this, Gilbert said he intends to resume his bartender position as early as next week and pursue MCAT exam preparation for the upcoming year.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 13, 2024


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