Survivor contestant Caleb Bankston was one of the most popular characters in the past several seasons, both with fellow contestants and with fans. So when he died in a railway accident on Tuesday, the news traveled quickly throughout the Survivor community.
Host Jeff Probst, who is currently out of the country filming Survivor: San Juan Del Sur, was stunned by the unexpected news. “The entire Survivor crew is together in Nicaragua,” he tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of Caleb. He was one of the most humble and likable contestants we have ever had the pleasure of working with on the show. A true gentleman. He will be missed by so many. We extend our most sincere condolences to his family and to his fiancé, Colton.”
Meanwhile, more details have emerged about the accident that claimed Bankston’s life. According to the Jefferson County coroner, Bankston was standing on a small ladder on the rear car of a loaded freight train. As an engineer began to back up, the car derailed, throwing the reality star onto the tracks. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Several of his fellow Survivor alums posted condolences to Twitter. “Rest in peace sweet angel,” Tweeted Candice Cody, who competed against him. Added Vytas Baskauskas: “You will be missed. One of the most kind, loving and authentic people I’ve ever met. Thank you for sharing your light with us.”
Bankston’s family is still reeling from the loss of the 26-year-old. Friends and family are expected to attend a visitation and funeral on Thursday in Crossville, Alabama.
“He was an angel,” says a cousin through her tears. “I just want my heart to quit hurting. He was the most wonderful man you could ever meet. I just can’t believe that he’s gone.”