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Tragic Details About The Cast Of Deadliest Catch

The Discovery Channel was originally a documentary-style network focused on educational programming and fact-based shows based on science, geography, technology, and history. However, this has changed dramatically over the past two decades, with the network releasing more reality television shows. That's largely down to the success of series like "Gold Rush" and "Deadliest Catch," two shows that show people working in harsh and dangerous conditions.

Debuting in 2005, "Deadliest Catch" has been a huge ratings hit and spawned several similar series, including "Wicked Tuna," "Lobster Wars," and "River Monsters." It follows several ships fishing for crab in the Bering Sea, giving viewers an in-depth look into the lives of fishermen and how tough the job is on a daily basis.

With fishermen working long hours and facing almost constant danger, "Deadliest Catch" often shows treacherous events that leave viewers breathless. However, the cast of the reality series have had their own private struggles, and many of them have gone through some truly tragic incidents that fans might not know about.

Blake Painter died of a suspected drug overdose

Blake Painter first appeared in "Deadliest Catch" in 2006 and initially worked as an engineer before taking the helm of the F/V Maverick. He was featured in 10 episodes of the reality television series during the second and third seasons but later quit the show — although he did continue to work as a crab fisherman in real life.

At just 38 years of age, Painter was found dead at his home in May 2018 by police officers. Friends had contacted authorities after noticing a seemingly lifeless body at Painter's home, while he had been missing for several days. Although there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, reports indicated that Painter had been arrested a few months before for allegedly using heroin while driving.

According to TMZ, several drugs were found in the room where Painter's body was located when police searched the premises. While no cause of death was provided, he was suspected to have died due to an overdose.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Jake Anderson's sister and father both died while he was on the show

Out of the many crab fishermen who have starred in "Deadliest Catch" as a leading cast member, Jake Anderson is one of the longest serving. He made his debut on the show in 2007 and has so far appeared in just over 200 episodes, eventually going on to become the captain of the ship known as Saga. However, his time on the show has not been easy for the fisherman, and he has received bad news on two separate occasions about his family while on screen.

The first happened in an episode during Season 5 of "Deadliest Catch" recorded in February 2009. He was told that his sister, Chelsea Dawn Anderson, had passed away unexpectedly. She had suffered from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis since childhood and died due to complications of pneumonia that were exacerbated by her chronic condition.

A year later, in a Season 6 episode, the crew broke the news to Anderson that his father had gone missing. Keith Anderson's truck had been discovered empty in a remote area of Washington. The 62-year-old was presumed dead due to the freezing conditions, although his body was not found until two years later when a hiker came across unidentified human remains.

Mahlon Reyes had a fatal heart attack

Having first appeared in the 2012 episode "The Hook" as a greenhorn aboard the fishing vessel known as the Seabrooke, Mahlon Reyes became a regular throughout the eighth season. Reyes was promoted to deckhand on the Seabrooke in later seasons before transferring to the Cape Caution in 2014. He was then absent for over half a decade until his return as a deckhand on the Summer Bay in 2020 for three episodes.

Those episodes proved to be the final time that Reyes would be on screen in "Deadliest Catch." In August 2020, he died at the age of 38 from a heart attack. According to his family members, Reyes was not suffering from any pre-existing health conditions, and the heart attack came as a total surprise. He is survived by his wife and their four children, with his family later revealing that his ashes were to be scattered at sea. A later episode of "Deadliest Catch" was subsequently aired in memory of the fisherman.

"On Sunday night our family together made the hardest choice we've ever made and that was to remove him from life support. Mahlon's body was tired and had put up an amazing fight. He was the strongest guy we knew," read a post from his family on Facebook (via USA Today). "He was surrounded by so much love."

Several Captains have seen their ships sink with tragic consequences

One of the biggest threats for any fisherman is their vessel becoming damaged. This can not only put their own lives at risk but also opens up the very real possibility of the ship sinking with all of its equipment. It is the worst nightmare for any captain, and something that nobody wants to witness.

Unfortunately, "Deadliest Catch" has featured several fishing ships that have sadly sunk either on the show or off-screen, often with tragic consequences for those involved. The F/V Big Valley sank in 2005, killing five of the six crew on the ship, while the F/V Destination disappeared, leading to a widespread search that was depicted in "Deadliest Catch" as the Coast Guard and close-by boats helped to locate the sunken vessel.

Other ships that have appeared in "Deadliest Catch" and have subsequently been lost at sea include the Ocean Challenger, which sunk with three crew members aboard, the FV Alaska Ranger, and the Katmai. Perhaps the most highly publicized of these terrible incidents was the FV Scandies Rose, a crab fishing ship that sank in 2019, resulting in the death of five of the seven crew members on board.

Jake Anderson battled addiction and was once homeless

As one of the regulars of the series, much of Jake Anderson's life has been discussed and shown on screen during episodes of "Deadliest Catch." He began life on the show as a greenhorn on the Northwestern before making his way up to deckhand and then deck boss on the same ship. He has also worked as an engineer and eventually became captain of his own vessel, the Saga. But not everything has been smooth sailing for Anderson, as he has revealed in interviews over the years and in a recent book.

Before he became involved in crab fishing on "Deadliest Catch," his life was very different and could have ended in tragedy. In his debut book "Relapse," Anderson spoke about his battles with addiction. After an injury that ended his professional skateboarding career and losing almost all of his sponsorship money, Anderson struggled with drug and alcohol problems. He also spent time homeless, unable to afford rent due to unemployment and addiction issues. Having reached rock bottom, Anderson has shared his personal stories in the hope of inspiring others rather than gaining sympathy.

Jake Harris struggled with drug and alcohol abuse following the death of his father

As the son of "Deadliest Catch" icon Phil Harris, Jake Harris was a prominent member of the cast. When his father died, Jake and his brother Josh took on the responsibility of running the Cornelia Marie — at least until he departed the show in 2012. Originally making his debut as a greenhorn on the ship, he quickly became a deckhand and worked on the Cornelia Marie for six years before later returning for a single episode in the 2020's "Everything Changes."

Part of the reason why Harris left the show was related to his personal struggle with drugs following the death of his dad. Speaking about the situation later in a 2011 interview with Dr. Drew, Harris said, "I got a big hole in my heart and tried to fill it up with everything that wasn't good for it." The reality star had been involved in drugs when younger and began abusing illicit substances again to help deal with his grief. This eventually led to him landing himself in trouble with police after he was arrested for a DUI and officers later discovered heroin in his home.

Justin Tennison shockingly died at a young age

Compared to some of the other cast members of "Deadliest Catch," Justin Tennison didn't have a particularly long run on the show. In Season 7, the experienced fishermen joined the Time Bandit as a deckhand. That meant working with Andy, Jonathan, and Neal Hillstrand as well as Eddie Uwekoolani, on one of the series' most popular vessels. He made his first appearance in 2011 and appeared in a total of eight episodes, although his time was ultimately cut short.

Tennison was found dead in a hotel room in Alaska in February 2011 at the age of 33. Despite initial suggestions that his death may have been caused by substance abuse, it was eventually revealed that he suffered from sleep apnea and complications from this condition were responsible. His friend and cousin Uwekoolani told The Hollywood Reporter that "his last wishes were to be cremated and taken out to the water for one long trip. He loved Alaska. He loved hunting and fishing and everything about it. He loved his kids tremendously."

One cast member was wanted for armed robbery

Credited in "Deadliest Catch" as Josh Warner but also known by his official name Joshua Tel Warner, this fisherman joined the series in 2009 as a greenhorn aboard the crab fishing ship Wizard. This meant working with Captain Keith Colburn and the relief captain Monte Colburn. Throughout Season 5, he made a total of nine appearances, with his final on-screen credit coming in the episode "Day of Reckoning."

The reason that Warner had such a short run on the series was due to the fact that he was living a double life. Not only was he working as a crab fisherman but he was also robbing banks during his time on land. Warner began his crime spree before landing a job on "Deadliest Catch," making his decision to appear in the popular series a bold move considering the fact that he was a wanted man. He was eventually arrested and sentenced to a nine-year stint in prison.

Jake Harris was robbed and beaten at one point

Jake Harris is arguably one of the most tragic members of the "Deadliest Catch" cast. Not only has he had to cope with the devastating death of his father Phil Harris and deal with his addiction issues, but the fisherman was also involved in a rather serious altercation. According to reports, the 25-year-old was attacked in Washington state in November 2016.

After being severely beaten by two attackers and then left on the side of the road, police eventually arrived to find that he had several serious injuries and more than $2,000 stolen from him. Harris told police that he had been attacked by a man and his girlfriend after they had offered to give him a lift home following a night at a local casino. The attack left Harris with a cracked skull and he required a stay in intensive care before being released. Police were later able to track down the suspects and arrest them, although it is unclear whether any charges were ever brought.

Series regular Nick McGlashan was found dead

Nick McGlashan quickly established himself as a popular member of the "Deadliest Catch" cast following his initial appearance in 2013. Originally working as a deckhand on board the Cape Caution, he later transitioned to the Summer Bay where he worked as a deck boss from 2017 until his final posthumous on-screen role in the 2021 episode "Tangled Web" as part of Season 17. Throughout that time, McGlashan was present in 85 episodes of the hit reality television show.

The 33-year-old star of the series was found dead in December 2020. According to Variety, the fisherman had struggled with addiction problems for many years, abusing alcohol and drugs from a young age. However, he had been living sober for some time before his death, having been forced to confront his issues under threat of being fired from his fishing job. British tabloid paper The Sun later reported that his autopsy had shown that he had died from an overdose and that a mixture of drugs was found in his body.

David Zielinski saw his career end due to a firework mishap

David Zielinski may not be very familiar to even ardent fans of "Deadliest Catch," although that shouldn't be too surprising, considering that he only appeared in two episodes of the show. He first appeared in the 2013 episode "Goodbye Jake" as a deckhand aboard the Time Bandit, and he also spent time on screen in "Kicking Off with a Bang" in the same season. However, these remain Zielinski's only appearances, as he suffered a serious hand injury that prevented him from working as a crab fisherman.

According to documents filed in a court in Seattle (via News Times), Zielinski's hand was seriously wounded after a firework exploded while he was holding it. The explosive was branded with the Time Bandit name and the fisherman claimed he had been told by the Hillstrand to aim the firework at another fishing vessel as part of a traditional firework barrage. Zielinski was later awarded more than $1 million by a jury in 2017 following a lengthy trial.

Phil Harris had a stroke on screen and later died

Out of all the people featured in "Deadliest Catch," Captain Phil Harris was arguably the most beloved by fans. An experienced fisherman who had been involved in the industry since he was a young child, he was one of the first stars of the show as the captain of the Cornelia Marie, becoming a firm favorite of viewers.

However, his time on the show was not always great. He was often shown to have a tumultuous relationship with his family and suffered a serious injury in 2008 when he fell during a storm and broke his ribs, which resulted in Harris coughing up blood and eventually suffering from a pulmonary embolism. The damage caused by this incident led to the captain missing much of the year. Unfortunately, this injury was just a precursor to a far more tragic event that would take place in 2010.

During filming for "Deadliest Catch," Harris was found unresponsive in his cabin. Quickly transported to the hospital to receive medical treatment, it was revealed that he had suffered a significant stroke and required lifesaving surgery. Although it initially seemed as if his condition was improving, he later suffered a fatal intracranial hemorrhage. "Deadliest Catch" cast and crew subsequently held a memorial service for the captain and dedicated an episode in his honor.

Many cast members have suffered serious injuries

The fact that crab fishing is so dangerous means that the crew of the various vessels showcased in "Deadliest Catch" often risk their lives. So while efforts are taken to make the job as safe as possible, there are still some inevitable injuries. Throughout the more than 300 episodes of the reality series to date, there have been some truly horrific incidents where fishermen have suffered serious wounds.

One of the worst injuries happened to Cory Rhodes during the finale episode of Season 15. The deckhand saw his leg mangled after it was crushed by a falling 1,000-pound crab pot, breaking both the fibula and tibia. Rhodes had to be evacuated to the hospital by the Coast Guard due to the serious nature of the leg injury. Meanwhile, Roger Schlosstein had the misfortune of being injured twice during his appearances on "Deadliest Catch." The first occurrence saw the fisherman crush his hand against a rail, while the second involved a loose crab pot crashing into his back while he worked at a sorting table.

Another significant injury on "Deadliest Catch" involved Francis Katungin, who was pinned against a railing by a giant piece of steel after a wave dislodged crab pots on the side of the Patricia Lee. The incident was so bad that producer Todd Stanley had to provide first aid until the ship was within range of a Coast Guard helicopter.

Josh Harris has been accused of child sex offenses

The Harris family has faced many difficulties and tragic moments throughout the history of "Deadliest Catch." Fan favorite Captain Phil Harris suffered a stroke that ultimately led to his death, while his son Jake Harris has faced numerous hardships in both his professional and personal life. Even Josh Harris, Jake's older brother, has found himself at the center of controversy in recent times.

Having originally appeared in "Deadliest Catch" during the 2007 season as a greenhorn on the Cornelia Marie, Josh Harris rose through the ranks to become a deckhand and then captain following the death of his father. Having appeared in more than 180 episodes, he is one of the most prominent figures in the series. But the Discovery Channel cut ties with Harris after disturbing allegations emerged that he had sexually assaulted a young child two decades ago, resulting in his arrest and subsequent plea down to a lesser charge, ultimately serving nine months in jail.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Bill Wichrowski was diagnosed with prostate cancer

Commercial crab fishing is a dangerous profession, hence the title of the show. There have been many injuries related to the action on-screen in "Deadliest Catch," but behind the scenes, there are even more deadly matters afoot. For instance, the cast of the show faces the same kind of risks as everyone else when it comes to diseases and illnesses. Captain Bill Wichrowski found this out during the Season 19 finale when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Doctors recommended that he start treatment immediately due to the aggressive nature of the cancer.

Wichrowski went public with his diagnosis to help raise awareness of the dangers that prostate cancer poses to men. According to the American Cancer Society, it is a disease that affects hundreds of thousands of people and kills over 35,000 each year. The disease also hasn't stopped Wichrowski from filming for future seasons of "Deadliest Catch."

"When I heard it," Deadline reported Wichrowski as saying. "One of the things I thought was, 'You know what? I'm not going to stop [fishing]. I'm going to keep going until I actually can't.' How many people get diagnosed with this and they just shut down and crawl into a shell? And it just makes it worse." He continued, "I'm willing to put it out there to let people see the journey in hopes of convincing some people to get tested."

Nick Mavar was diagnosed with cancer and later died

For nearly two decades of Discovery's "Deadliest Catch," Nick Mavar was a recurring presence as a Northwestern deckhand, particularly in Seasons 5 through 7 and 10 through 15. He made 98 appearances until his departure from the series after Season 17. After experiencing pain aboard the Northwestern, Mavar was airlifted to a hospital and diagnosed with a ruptured appendix. During his treatment, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor within his appendix. To recover properly and start immediate treatment, Mavar left "Deadliest Catch." However, this wasn't the end of his association with the show. He subsequently sued the owners of the Northwestern in a lawsuit that also involved production company Original Productions, Inc.

Mavar was a popular member of the Northwestern crew, serving under Captain Sig Hansen. During a particularly emotional and personal storyline, Mavar played a prominent role in helping Jake Anderson, his nephew, in his recovery following alcohol and drug addictions.

A Bristol Bay Borough Police Department spokesperson told Variety that Mavar had suffered a medical emergency and had died of natural causes on June 13, 2024, after being transported to Camai Medical Center in Alaska. Speaking to The New York Times, Anderson shed more light on his uncle's death, confirming that he had been working at a dry dock when he had a heart attack. He said Mavar fell from a ladder onto the dry dock before medics arrived at the scene.