Everyone who has watched “Deadliest Catch” enough times knows well that they’re up to seeing some tragedies happen on TV. From all the turbulence experienced on the high seas, accidents and fights, it’s undeniable that the show has a lot to offer when it comes to bringing some drama to the table.
While “Deadliest Catch” has been keeping its audiences tuning into the show for over a decade with this formula, sometimes not even the crudest parts of reality TV can compare to how cruel life off-camera is. To prove this, we can take a that of look at the unfortunate passing of some show cast members, especially recent cases such as Mahlon Reyes’.
So how did Mahlon die? What was his life’s story, and who else from the show has died? Stay here to discover all!
How Did Mahlon Die?
Tragedy hit the cast of “Deadliest Catch” once again when Mahlon Reyes died at 38 years old on 27 July 2020. The news of his passing was first revealed by TMZ, which initially said that he’d died from a heart attack suffered back on the 25th, though at that point his family had no idea about any previous heart problems he might have suffered. Mahlon was rushed to a hospital in his native Montana, and remained unconscious for two days before being taken off life support.
Later, in January 2021, TMZ reported that Mahlon’s heart attack was the product of an accidental cocaine overdose. At the time of his death, Mahlon was recovering from an injury to his feet suffered months before while fishing.
Besides being a deckhand for vessels such as the Western Mariner and Seabrooke, and a regular in “Deadliest Catch”, Mahlon was also a dedicated family father and loved friend. As said by his wife and mother to his four children Heather Sullivan, many people reached out to her and his family on Mahlon’s memorial Facebook page, and through the funding, a campaign started in his honor, which eventually collected nearly $15,000.
Mahlon’s ashes were thrown onto the Bering Sea, and in his favorite spot in Montana’s mountains.
Who Else Has Died?
Besides Mahlon Reyes’ unfortunate death, several other cast members of “Deadliest Catch” have passed away.
On 28 December 2020, deck boss and regular “Deadliest Catch” cast member Nick McGlashan died at 33 years old, survived by his wife Claire and two children.
According to reports, Nick was found irresponsive in a Nashville hotel, where he was staying after flying from his hometown in Florida to hang out with friends. His death was caused by a drug overdose, a product of mixing methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine, substances which he had long been struggling with.
As Nick wrote back in 2017 for Chosen Mag, he found his career as a fisherman to be the cause of his addiction problems: ‘My life went from Bering Sea badass to full-blown junkie very rapidly. Hidden from me was that passion I had for life. Taken from me was my ability to live,’ he wrote. At the time, Nick had been clean for months after joining a recovery program in late 2016.
During the “Deadliest Catch” 17th season premiere, Nick’s former co-stars paid tribute to him – the shocking news didn’t only affect his co-workers at Summer Bay, but also the Northwestern crew and its Captain Sig Hansen. Nick had been appearing in the show since 2013, in 73 episodes overall.
The death of Todd Kochutin occurred on 26 February 2021, at 30 years old, while he was working on board the Patricia Lee fishing vessel. As seen in the show’s 18th season, Todd was injured by a crab pot, a jail-like trap used in vessels which are known for being significantly heavy and extremely dangerous if not handled with care.
Upon hearing the news of a Patricia Lee fisherman being injured, Captains of other ships such as Bill Wichrowski and Sig Hansen are told that the fisherman was in severe pain, and needed urgent medical care. Unfortunately, Todd died on board the ship soon afterwards.
While Todd wasn’t widely featured in the show, his death impacted viewers and crewmates alike. As described in his obituary, Todd was born in Alaska and loved the sea, fishing, and was known for a great sense of humor and personality.
While Blake Painter’s appearances in “Deadliest Catch” were brief, he’s remembered for being the first Captain of the Maverick introduced to the audience.
Unfortunately, Blake died at 38 years old in May 2018, after police followed reports by a friend who hadn’t been able to contact him for a while. He was found dead in his Oregon home on the 25th of that month.
According to TMZ, narcotics and illegal substances were found in his home, but the cause of his death wasn’t confirmed. A couple of months before his death, Blake was arrested for driving under the influence, reckless driving, and possession of heroin.
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) May 30, 2018
Back in the seventh season of “Deadliest Catch”, Justin Tennison became a regular in the show as a crew member of the Time Bandit vessel. However, his life as a fisherman and TV personality came to an unfortunate abrupt end in 2011, when he was found dead in an Alaska hotel.
Following reports, Justin suffered from sleep apnea and died in his sleep at 33 years old. Details about his family and daily life weren’t revealed, but his former crew described him as hard-working and ‘tough as a bull and was an all-around good hand’.
While other deaths involved former show stars, Joe McMahon was part of the “Deadliest Catch” family in a different way. As an associate producer during the ninth season, Joe was responsible for making many things in the show possible, even despite his young age.
Nonetheless, Joe’s life came to an unfortunate end at 24 years old, when he was shot repeatedly by a so-called friend in California in July 2015. According to reports, Joe had heard gunshots while at his parents’ house and went out to investigate. The perpetrator was later found dead inside his car after shooting himself, but his identity wasn’t revealed to the public.
As a former Captain of the Cornelia Marie, Tony Lara is well-remembered by “Deadliest Catch” audiences for being the one who took the reins of the ship following the death of former skipper and friend Phil Harris.
Despite leaving the show in the eighth season and starting a freight company, Tony didn’t abandon the ocean entirely, and often visited the Cornelia Marie to see how it was doing.
Unfortunately, Tony died from a heart attack in his sleep at 50 years old on 8 August 2015. Before his unfortunate passing, Tony had been on a trip to Sturgis in North Dakota to join the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Tony’s sudden death was a big surprise for his close ones, but he was remembered for his personality and work ethic. As the former Wizard’s Captain Keith Colburn told People at the time, Tony was always up to help others and work hard, even amid adversities such as breaking an arm during the 2000 crab season: ‘He went down into the engine room and fabricated his own brace so he was able to get through. He basically saved the season for us’ Keith recalled.
The death which has impacted “Deadliest Catch”s audience the most was by far that of Phil Harris, the former Captain of Cornelia Marie and fan favorite.
Captain Phil’s medical struggles were documented starting in the show’s fourth season, during which he suffered a pulmonary embolism, the product of being violently smashed in a storm. He retired from that season but returned the following year, taking back his skipper position for a short time, before suffering a stroke on 29 January 2009.
Phil was airlifted to a hospital in Anchorage, where he was induced into a coma to treat his intracranial pressure. Despite the initial signs of recovery, such as awakening from the coma by himself and writing a note to producers telling them to keep recording, Phil sadly died on 9 February from an intracranial hemorrhage.
Just as Phil’s death deeply saddened not only the audience but also his crew and his surviving family, all the unfortunate passings of fellow “Deadliest Catch” cast members have had an impact on their own. One thing for sure is that the tragedies of men such as Mahlon Reyes, Phil Harris, and even others who might have not appeared in the show as much, have touched the hearts of the audience.