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The Saddest Moments Surrounding Deadliest Catch

The Discovery Channel's reality program "Deadliest Catch" has been entertaining viewers since 2005. The fishing show captures the lives of crew members who work on a number of different crab fishing boats  — among them The Northwestern, Time Bandit, and the Cornelia Marie — as they patrol the Bering Sea in search of large catches. The jobs they undertake are dangerous and sometimes, well, deadly, but each crew member takes pride what they do and works long hours pulling up fancy crab from the bottom of the freezing cold ocean floor.

The show has spawned 17 seasons of television and a loyal fanbase that has become attached to the various captains and crews featured on the program. But over time, the risky nature of the show's central occupation has resulted in the loss of several cast members, among other personal tragedies for various castmembers. Follow us as we recount the saddest things that happened to those featured on "The Deadliest Catch."

The F/V Destination sinks

The sinking of the F/V Destination, which was documented during the Season 13 episode "Lost at Sea," was one of several awful tragedies that plagued the cast of "Deadliest Catch."

On the show, much of the sad tale is seen through the eyes of Sig Hansen. Hansen is the captain of the Northwestern and a series regular. He was a friend to the skipper of the Destination, Jeff Hathaway. Hathaway and his entire crew – which included Larry O'Grady, Charles Glenn Jones, Raymond Vincler, Darrik Seibold, and Kai Hamik (per Fox News) – went missing on February 11, 2017, while they were out fishing near St. George Island in Alaska. The boat and its crew disappeared entirely, save for a few items such as lobster pots which were later seen bobbing in the chilly surf.

According to a later report by the NTSB published through Alaskan news station KUCB, it was determined that the Destination likely capsized due to its exterior being sheeted in 330,000 pounds of ice created by gale force winds and freezing temperatures. The tragedy clearly touched Hansen, who was visibly grief-stricken as he absorbed the news.

The death of Justin Tennison

Justin Tennison, who was a deckhand on the vessel Time Bandit, died unexpectedly at the tragically young age of 34 on February 22, 2011, per People Magazine and TMZ.

"It is with great sadness that the Time Bandit family announces the death of crew member Justin Tennison. Justin died peacefully in his sleep," read a statement posted on the official Time Bandit website. Tennison was found in his hotel room in Homer, Alaska, and the cause of death was initially undetermined, per People. After an autopsy was conducted, Tennison was determined to have died of complications from sleep apnea, per CPAP Supply USA. 

Tennison's final episodes featured him fighting with fellow deckhand Mike Fourtner, a conflict apparently fueled by a lack of sleep. His death was a minor plot point during Season 8 of "Deadliest Catch," as Captain Jonathan Hillstrand carried Tennison's ashes aboard Time Bandit and tried to find a perfect place to spread them. 

The deckhand's passing came only months after the death of Cornelia Marie skipper Phil Harris.

The death of Mahlon Reyes

Another cast member lost their life unexpectedly — and at a young age — in 2020. Mahlon Reyes died of a massive heart attack on August 2, 2020, per People Magazine. Though he survived his medical emergency, he was placed on life support and his family chose to discontinue further lifesaving measures. He passed away without regaining consciousness. Reyes was only 38 years old. 

Acute cocaine intoxication was later named as the cause of death in January 2021, also per People. The manner of his death was deemed accidental by the coroner at the Flathead County Sheriff's Office, via a contemporaneous statement provided to USA Today.

Reyes worked as a deckhand on both the Seabrooke and the Cape Caution. His wife expressed her appreciation for Reyes' colleagues in the wake of his death. "I am in awe of the people that he touched just by his positive attitude and smile," she said on Facebook, via PopCulture. Per a statement given by Reyes' wife to TMZ, which was reprinted by People, his ashes were scattered into the Bering Sea by a group of his "Deadliest Catch" co-workers in October 2020. 

The death of Nick McGlashan

Deck boss Nick McGlashan, who worked on the Summer Bay vessel, passed away at the tender age of 33 on December 27, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee, per Variety. The cause of his death was eventually determined to be a drug overdose, per an autopsy obtained by The Sun.  McGlashan had a history of addiction — he was removed from his position in Season 13 after his conduct became disruptive to his fellow crewmembers. He had subsequently rededicated himself to sobriety and regained his position upon the Summer Bay.

The fisherman — who was a regular on the show from 2013 to 2020 — is remembered fondly by his colleagues. Particularly devastated by his passing was his captain, "Wild" Bill Wichrowski, who is seen receiving news of Nick's passing during the Season 17 episode "Dedication." Deciding to hold a memorial for his friend, Wichrowski called upon his colleagues to assemble in McGlashan's memory. As shown in an episode clip posted to the official "Deadliest Catch" YouTube channel in June 2021, nearly every vessel in their social circle turned up. It was an emotional event for all who attended, with Wichrowski fighting back tears in the presence of McGlashan's mother and daughter.

The death of Phil Harris

The loss of the popular Phil Harris, skipper of the Cornelia Marie, remains a towering tragedy in "Deadliest Catch" history. Harris was a regular cast member from the second to the sixth season of "Deadliest Catch," and a central figure during the show's early years.

Harris' death was a very public affair, which amped up the tragic nature of the ordeal. He suffered a stroke while aboard the Cornelia Marie — and in full view of The Discovery Chanel's cameras, which kept filming as he was airlifted to a hospital. Crew members followed Harris through his hospitalization. He showed some initial improvement, but eventually died of a pulmonary embolism on February 9, 2010 per The New York Times. He was only 53 years old.

Harris' son Josh, also a "Deadliest Catch" cast member, firmly told reporters that his father was clear about his wishes when it came to the footage he would leave behind. "He couldn't talk at the time, but he wrote us a note," Josh later told The Los Angeles Times. Thus, the show would carry on — and Harris' death would be a part of it. Much of Season 6 of "Deadliest Catch" documents Harris' stroke and death in a painstaking way, and Season 7 opens with footage of his memorial service.

Fan response to this decision was massive. Per a Discovery Channel executive quoted by The Los Angeles Times, viewers "nearly melted [the] server" housing the official "Deadliest Catch" website and message board as they flocked together to mourn Harris in the spring of 2010. A fitting send-off to a man who remains one of the most beloved figures in the show's history.