Remembering the Late Deadliest Catch Stars, from Phil Harris to Nick McGlashan
The Discovery Channel series has captivated fans for 16 seasons — but its stars have faced their fair share of tragedy
Deadliest Catch has captivated fans for 16 seasons — but the Discovery Channel series has also faced its fair share of tragedy.
Four years ago, Captain Sig Hansen suffered a heart attack while filming. When it happened, the fisherman wanted to keep going, but the crew insisted he receive medical attention, so he was air-lifted to a medical facility in Anchorage, Alaska.
“That was close,” Hansen later told PEOPLE Now. “That was like a 50/50 chance.”
Others weren’t so lucky. The Emmy-winning documentary series portrays the real-life events aboard fishing vessels in the perilous, icy waters of the Bering Sea, depicting how crab fishing in Alaska is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Not all Deadliest Catch fatalities, however, happened at sea — here’s a look back at the show’s late stars.
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He appeared on 78 episodes of Deadliest Catch, starting in 2013.
"Our deepest sympathy goes out to Nick’s loved ones during this difficult time," a spokesperson for Discovery told PEOPLE. "Nick came from a long line of crabbers and was known for his great depth of knowledge. He also had a sharp sense of humor even in the most difficult conditions. He will be deeply missed by all those who knew him."
His sister confirmed the news on Twitter, writing, "My brother nick passed away. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. Please hold your loved ones tight."
According to his bio on Discovery Go, McGlashan was a 7th generation fisherman, raised on the island of Akutan, Alaska, not far from Dutch Harbor — the base of operations on Deadliest Catch.
The deck boss first began crabbing when he was 13 years old, joining his family on his dad's boat, the Westling, which they took out on the Bering Sea. McGlashan's father, Bruce, and Wild Bill had been longtime friends, so McGlashan started working for him on the Kodiak in 2011. After quickly earning Bill's respect, McGlashan was appointed to head the crew on Cape Caution and later Summer Bay.
Unfortunately, McGlashan struggled with alcohol and drug addiction in the past, which got him suspended from season 13. He eventually went to rehab and had "battled endlessly to stay sober and embrace a new sober lifestyle and is now so committed to his recovery that he inspires others in their own," his Discovery bio reads.
In May 2018, former Deadliest Catch captain Blake Painter was found dead in his home in Astoria, Oregon, the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to PEOPLE. He was 38.
The past captain of the F/V Maverick appeared on the series in 2006 and 2007. According to TMZ, he was discovered when a friend grew concerned and called police after not having heard from him in several days.
Police tested several substances found at the scene of Painter’s death for narcotics. At the time, they did not suspect foul play.
According to a police report obtained by PEOPLE, there were multiple forms of drugs, including what police believe to be heroin and meth, located near Painter’s body when he was pronounced dead. The medical examiner also discovered a “small pipe” in Painter’s shorts.
Local newspaper The Daily Astorian reported that Painter was arrested earlier that year when a police officer allegedly saw him smoking heroin while driving.
Painter, an expert crab fisherman, spoke of his love-hate relationship with his career, including several of his related injuries, in an interview with Seattle Weekly in 2013.
“I dread long-lining season, just because it’s so repetitive,” he said, before noting, “When fishing is good, you’re making money quick. It’s not uncommon to make $1,000 a day.”
Phil Harris’ death stunned fellow fishermen and fans in 2010, when the colorful captain and part owner of the Cornelia Marie suffered a massive stroke while off-loading crab in Alaska on Jan. 29. An engineer found Phil on the floor of his room, unable to move. Phil called for his son Josh, who called 911.
“The whole left side of his face was in paralysis, and that was hard,” Josh told PEOPLE at the time. “He couldn’t move his arms or anything, he was just paralyzed on the floor.”
Phil was rushed to hospital in Anchorage, where he underwent a long operation. He came out of the medically induced coma and his condition appeared to be improving, but on Feb. 9, the veteran fisherman died at the age of 53 surrounded by family and friends in the hospital.
“We had nine days total that we were there to enjoy a few moments with him,” said Josh. “We had our closest people there, and it was awesome.”
Justin Tennison, a deckhand on Deadliest Catch‘s Time Bandit, was found dead in a Homer, Alaska, hotel room on Feb. 22, 2011 — four days after he returned from the sea. He was 33. Autopsy results reportedly revealed that his death was due to complications related to sleep apnea.
“It is with great sadness that the Time Bandit family announces the death of crew member Justin Tennison,” the vessel’s crew posted on its website at the time. “Justin died peacefully in his sleep.”
“Justin was tough as a bull and was an all-around good hand,” continued the statement. “The captains and crew appreciated his hard work and many contributions this past year. We will miss him terribly and wish his family all the best during this most difficult time. Justin is survived by a son, daughter, sister, father and grandparents.”
In July 2015, Joe McMahon, a former producer on the show, was shot and killed near his parents home in Pasadena, California. He was 24.
McMahon was an associate producer for the network in 2013 and worked on nine episodes of Deadliest Catch. According to Deadline, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department later reported that the suspect was found dead in his car with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Tony Lara, former Deadliest Catch captain, died of a heart attack in his sleep in Sturgis, South Dakota, on Aug. 8, 2015.
Lara, who also had his own freight and salvage company, appeared in six episodes as the captain of the Cornelia Marie.
“He was always a captain that was super easy to get along with,” Lara’s longtime friend and fellow captain Keith Colburn later told PEOPLE. “Very professional and people enjoyed his company.”
“He was a really good guy all around, and he had wonderful character,” added Colburn. “If you ever needed help, he would be the first guy there to help you out.”
Dr. Keith Anderson
In January 2010, Keith Anderson, the father of Northwestern deckhand Jake Anderson, went missing in Washington state. His truck was found abandoned in a rural area about two weeks later.
In 2012, Keith’s skeletal remains were found by a hiker about a mile away from where his truck had been abandoned.
Deadliest Catch viewers watched Jake work through the heartache, including watching him return to the site where his father’s truck was found.