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Deadliest Catch Stars Who Have Sadly Passed Away

As its title suggests, "Deadliest Catch" chronicles the perilous world of crabbing, as well as the financial and emotional hardships that come with one of the most dangerous jobs on the high seas. The series' combination of high-octane grit and documentary-style realism has been a boon for the Discovery Channel, which has been airing "Deadliest Catch" since 2005 to millions of devoted viewers. Over the years, there have been plenty of sad moments on "Deadliest Catch," from fishing vessels going under to crew members struggling with addiction. However, given the high-risk world of "Deadliest Catch," some of the show's tragedies tend to fly under the radar, especially when they occur on the job.

From greenhorns who gave it their all and paid the ultimate price, to veterans of the crab game who spent most of their lives at sea, the following cast and crew members of "Deadliest Catch" are no longer with us.

Todd Kochutin

The death of fisherman Todd Kochutin in February 2021 at age 30 was a tragedy for two of the vessels featured on the series. In the Season 17 finale, titled "The Ultimate Price," we see news of Todd's accident aboard the fishing vessel Patricia Lee spread to the other boats in the area. Wild Bill Wichrowski, captain of the F/V Summer Bay, nervously waits for updates. The world of crab fishing is relatively small — many of the men featured on the series have worked on more than one vessel, or at least have friends and colleagues aboard different boats, and Kochutin was no different. It was devastating for the whole production when Kochutin was confirmed to have passed.

Kochutin died from injuries sustained in an accident with a crab pot, one of the 800-pound cages used by vessels like the Summer Bay and Patricia Lee to secure their valuable catches. His commercial fishing career, compared to lifers like Wild Bill, had just begun. Even so, Kochutin had faced no small amount of hardship in his short life; according to his obituary in the Anchorage Daily News, he was the last surviving member of his immediate family, having already lost his parents and two siblings. The following year, history almost repeated itself aboard the Patricia Lee when crewmember Francis Katungin was seriously injured in an accident similar to the one that killed Kochutin.

Nick McGlashan

As Wild Bill sits at the Anchorage airport in Episode 9 of Season 17, just 36 hours before the F/V Summer Bay and her crew will begin the Winter 2021 season, he receives a piece of terrible news: His longtime deck boss Nick McGlashan has died of an apparent drug overdose in a Nashville hotel. The news hits the Summer Bay crew hard. Nick was not just a colleague and a friend, but very much an integral part of the vessel's day to day operations. Bill, as Nick's captain and mentor, naturally blames himself and laments that he didn't do more to keep Nick from going home to Tennessee. The rest of the crew, meanwhile, still have a job to do, even in grief.

McGlashan's struggles with addiction were well-known both to his crewmates and to fans of "Deadliest Catch" — he left the show for a brief period in 2017 in order to get treatment, and returned newly sober. Hailing from a long line of crab fishermen, McGlashan began working the Bering Sea at age 13. He started as a deckhand on "Deadliest Catch," but soon became deck boss due to his work ethic and depth of knowledge. He was 33 at the time of his death.

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).

Mahlon Reyes

Summer Bay deckhand Mahlon Reyes suffers a leg injury in the Season 16 episode "Bering Sea Crash," as the crew has been pushed to the brink for 48 hours straight. Wild Bill even falls asleep at the wheel — literally — at the start of the episode. The injury is not the type of thing Reyes can walk off, and Bill has no choice but to return to shore in order for his crewman to receive medical attention. Reyes started out as a greenhorn in Season 8, first on the F/V Seabrooke and then on the Cape Caution before crewing the Summer Bay in Season 16. He was only featured on about a dozen episodes of the series, but was by all accounts a talented fisherman.

Reyes died in July 2020 while in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. Resting between seasons, he suffered a massive heart attack and was rushed to a nearby hospital, but never regained consciousness. Initial reports did not list a cause of death beyond his cardiac arrest, but a toxicology report released several months later — and just a week after Nick McGlashan's death — confirmed that the 38-year-old's heart attack was caused by an accidental cocaine 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).

Phil Harris

One of the series' first breakout stars was Captain Phil Harris of the F/V Cornelia Marie. After a brief appearance in the first season, Harris took center stage starting in Season 2 along with sons Jake and Josh, the latter of whom took over the Cornelia Marie after his death. Television stardom came late to the irascible, chain-smoking Harris, who had been working on fishing boats since the tender age of seven and started crabbing as a teenager. Operating out of Seattle, he ran his first vessel at age 21, making him the youngest captain on the Bering Sea at the time.

In January 2010, as the show was filming its sixth season, Harris suffered a massive stroke while at port in St. Paul Island. He was flown to a hospital in Anchorage and placed in a medically-induced coma. Despite emerging from the coma with some brief signs of improvement, he died of an intracranial hemorrhage in February 2010. His stroke and subsequent hospital stay were captured on camera by the production and featured in several Season 6 episodes. At the end of the season, Josh returned to the Cornelia Marie to pick up where his father left off, and Discovery aired a tribute episode to the late captain. Harris was 53 at the time of his death.

Tony Lara

After Phil Harris' death, the Cornelia Marie was briefly helmed by Captain Tony Lara. Josh Harris brought Lara — a family friend and former Cornelia Marie crew member — on to replace his late father at the start of the Winter 2011 season. Lara made his first appearance on the show halfway through Season 7, but, despite his longstanding history with both the vessel and the Harris family, he vacated his position as captain at the end of that season.

In addition to his years as a crab fisherman, Alaska native Lara also ran his own freight company. He died of a heart attack in August 2015 at age 50, years after his stint on the show, while attending the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota. His death was mourned by "Deadliest Catch" fans and stars, including Josh Harris and F/V Wizard captain Keith Colburn. "Saddened to hear of the passing of Capt. Tony Lara," Colburn said in a tribute tweet. "Top notch chief, great capt., & even better friend."

Blake Painter

Fisherman Blake Painter died at the age of 38 on May 25, 2018, more than ten years after his last appearance on "Deadliest Catch." Painter had previously starred in Season 2 beginning in 2006 and been a part of Season 3 before leaving the series. The expert crabber and former captain of the F/V Maverick was found dead in his home in Oregon by a friend who had become concerned by Painter's absence.

Prescription meds were found on the scene, which led to speculation about the cause of death. Painter had previously been in trouble with the law over drugs, having been charged with unlawful possession of heroin and reckless driving after a police officer reported seeing him smoking the drug while at the wheel. He faced a number of other charges over the years, including recklessly endangering another person, criminal mischief, and DUI.

If you or anyone you know is struggling 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).

Ross Jones

Ross Jones' time on "Deadliest Catch" was brief: He appeared in just a couple of episodes in Season 16. A crewman aboard the F/V Saga, Jones was one of three greenhorns setting sail to the waters near the Russian border at the start of the Winter season. Saga captain Jake Anderson was not only attempting to outrace and outcrab his fellow captains, but also to outpace an incoming ice storm. For Jones and his fellow newbies, this was a brand new world.

Though Jones wasn't a lasting crew member, fans of the series remembered him well and reported on his death in June 2022 on Facebook. Anderson also posted about Jones' passing on his Instagram page. "I loved Ross Jones," he captioned a photo of them together. "You made me p*** my pants on several occasions. TO VALHALLA!" The young sailor was survived by his girlfriend Chloe and their young son. No cause of death has been reported.

Justin Tennison

Like Tony Lara, F/V Time Bandit deckhand Justin Tennison came and went in Season 7. Time Bandit captain Jonathan Hillstrand brought him on board in the Fall 2010 red king crab season and the Winter 2011 season. His cousin, Eddie Uwekoolani, was already working on the ship. Tennison was an experienced fisherman and Alaska resident for nearly three decades. It's entirely possible that Tennison would have continued with the Time Bandit (and with "Deadliest Catch") for a number of years had it not been for his untimely death. He was found in a Homer, Alaska hotel room in February 2011, right after the end of the Winter season. 

While initial reports from TMZ mentioned marijuana and alcohol being found in the room and that it was "unknown if the booze and drugs played a role in Justin's death," it soon became clear that this wasn't the case — an autopsy found that his death was due to complications from sleep apnea. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter after Tennison's death, Uwekoolani said that his last conversation with his cousin was about the uncertainty of their high-risk job, where injury or death could come at any moment. He also said that Tennison's dying wish was to be cremated and "taken out on the water for one last trip." He was 34 at the time of his death and had two kids.

Nick Mavar

Nick Mavar was one of the longest-serving cast members on "Deadliest Catch," appearing in 98 episodes between Season 1 and Season 17. Mavar actually appeared in the very first episode of the Discovery series back in 2005. From his debut, he worked on the F/V Northwestern, serving as a deckhand to Captain Sig Hansen. During the course of his time on the show, viewers saw Mavar help his nephew Jake Anderson recover from an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Mavar had been missing from the show since his appendix ruptured while on the Northwestern (an event captured by the cameras) and he was airlifted to hospital. Doctors found that the fisherman had a tumor that was later determined to be cancerous. He started treatment immediately and was unable to return to "Deadliest Catch." Mavar sued the owners of the Northwestern for what he felt was a lack of proper medical care.

According to Variety, who spoke to a representative of the Bristol Bay Borough Police Department, Mavar died from natural causes after suffering from a medical emergency. Medics performed "life-saving measures," the rep said, but were unable to keep him alive, with Mavar pronounced dead at Camai Medical Center. Jake Anderson later confirmed to The New York Times that his uncle had a heart attack while climbing a ladder and fell onto a dry dock. He was 59.

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).

Joseph McMahon

Although crabbing and commercial fishing are incredibly dangerous in and of themselves, sometimes danger lurks a lot closer to home. In 2015, associate producer Joseph McMahon was fatally shot outside of his house in Pasadena, California, after he went outside to investigate a strange sound. He was 24 years old. Per IMDb, McMahon worked on 19 episodes of "Deadliest Catch" between 2013 and 2014.

According to CBS, the alleged shooter, also 24, was found dead in his car the same day from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. McMahon's father, Tom, later wrote an essay for Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety, that expanded on the circumstances behind his son's death. According to the elder McMahon, Joe was shot by an old friend from high school. "We will do whatever is asked of us because we strongly believe in a common goal," wrote Tom. "To end gun violence."

Josh Paulus, Danny Matlock, and Blaine Steinmetz

In 2016, The Discovery Channel launched the spin-off "Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove." The short-lived series followed Oregon crab fleets who braved the Pacific Northwest coast, also known as the "graveyard of the Pacific," to seek out highly prized Dungeness crabs. Though it only aired for six episodes, the spin-off made quick work of living up to its name, as tragedy struck in Episode 3, titled "Lost at Sea."

The episode follows a number of fishing vessels in real-time as they endure a storm in Coos Bay, with the crews of F/V Galway Bay, F/V Western Breeze, F/V Redeemer, and F/V Excalibur all providing commentary. These vessels came through okay in the end. Unfortunately, the Eagle III wasn't so lucky: It was taken out in Coos Bay, where winds were at 30mph and the waves were 10-foot high. Three crew members, Josh Paulus (31), Danny Matlock (37), and Blaine Steinmetz (52), lost their lives.

Miraculously, a fourth member of the crew managed to survive. Captain Glenn Burkhow, who happens to be Paulus' father-in-law, was able to swim back to shore and survive the ordeal. "I remember thinking: You got to swim," Burkhow told KCBY. "But at that time it didn't matter because here comes another wave, which picked me up and body slammed me into the jetty." He was eventually able to pull himself out of the water but that was only half the battle — he had to walk four and a half miles while exhausted and freezing to find help.

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 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.