Marine recruit who fell has serious brain damage and is in coma

Kristian Gashaj was injured in a fall Oct. 28, 2016, days after arriving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.


By WADE LIVINGSTON | The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) | Published: November 8, 2016

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — Kristian Gashaj, a recruit injured in a recent fall at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, has “serious brain damage” and is not showing signs of improvement, according to a family spokesperson.

“The family is fighting,” Elizabeth Malotaj said Tuesday morning. “(They’re) trying to get second and third opinions from other doctors.”

Malotaj, who said she traveled to Charleston over the weekend to visit the family, said Gashaj is in a coma.

Gashaj was injured Oct. 28 in a two-story fall inside the depot’s recruit processing center. He’d been on the island just four days. His fall is one of three major incidents this year involving recruits. In March, a recruit jumped to his death. Last week, a recruit was found unconscious in his bed and was later pronounced dead.

Malotaj, who organized a Go Fund Me webpage that raised more than $50,000 for the Gashaj family, said the recruit’s mother and three sisters are at his side, and that other friends and family members had come to visit.

Gashaj, who the webpage identifies as an 18-year-old from Sterling Heights, Mich., is pictured on that page in a Medical University of South Carolina Hospital gown — a hospital worker confirmed last week a patient by that name in the facility’s surgical trauma unit.

In the picture, Gashaj’s right eye appears badly bruised. He’s wearing a neck brace and has tubes leading into his mouth.

When asked Tuesday morning if he could confirm Gashaj’s identity, Parris Island spokesperson Capt. Greg Carroll said the Corps is still not naming the recruit out of respect to the family.

The recruit remains in critical condition, Carroll said.

“His condition is about the same,” Malotaj said. “It’s pretty serious from what we’re told.”

She mentioned the family is considering moving Gashaj to another facility, but no decisions have been made at this time.

Gashaj is the second Michigan recruit who’s suffered a serious fall this year.

Raheel Siddiqui, 20, of Taylor, Mich., died March 18 after falling nearly 40 feet at the depot.

In the wake of his death, the Corps announced in September that 20 depot personnel could face military justice or administrative action because of their alleged involvement in instances of recruit abuse and hazing, some of which could be related to Siddiqui’s death.

The Corps ruled his death a suicide, but his family and their attorney, Shiraz Kahn, dispute that claim. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service continues to look into the incident.

NCIS is also investigating Gashaj’s injury. Preliminary information lead the agency to believe he “intentionally jumped,” according to NCIS spokesperson Ed Buice. There are no signs of foul play.

Nor, apparently, are there any signs of foul play in the death of Zachary Boland, an 18-year-old recruit from Madison, Ala., who was found unconscious in his bed Friday night.

The cause of death is still being determined, Beaufort County Deputy Coroner David Ott said Monday.

In addition to NCIS’ investigations of Boland’s death and Gashaj’s injuries, the Corps has opened command investigations for both incidents.

©2016 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)
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Kristian Gashaj, a recruit injured in a fall on Oct. 28, 2016 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, is photographed in the hospital.

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