Reality television producers are known for editing out some parts of their subjects' lives, but there is one part of life that sadly cannot be edited out. From Deadliest Catch to Swamp People, productions have had to deal with the deaths of cast members. These life-changing moments can provide heartbreaking moments of television that remind viewers that their favorite reality stars are people too.
In most cases, a tragedy can significantly change plans for storylines on reality shows. In 2018, National Geographic's Wicked Tuna was struck by a tragedy when Nicholas "Duffy" Fudge died, inspiring Captain Tyler McLaughlin to dedicate his season to his friend and necessitating scenes of him teaching a new first mate.
Scroll on for a look at some of the tragedies that have struck reality television over the years.
Ryan Dunn was one of the main stars of Jackass, the hit MTV reality series created by Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, and Jeff Tremaine that showed the cast making crazy stunts. Dunn appeared in the original show, which ran from 2000 to 2002, as well as its spin-offs and movies.
In 2011, Dunn died in a devastating car crash, just days after turning 34, in Pennsylvania. He had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit in the state. Zachary Hartwell, a Jackass production assistant, was Dunn's passenger and was also killed in the crash.prevnext
Jenni Rivera was a popular singer and considered a trailblazer in the Regional Mexican genre. From 2011 to 2013, she starred in her own reality series, mun2's I Love Jenni, which followed her and her family. In December 2012, before the final episodes of I Love Jenni aired, she and six others were killed in a plane crash near Monterrey, Mexico. In 2016, UNIVERSO launched The Riveras, a reality series following Rivera's children and family as they honor her legacy.prevnext
Phil Harris was one of the stars of the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. In January 2010, Harris suffered a massive stroke. A few weeks later, on Feb. 9, 2010, Harris died from an intracranial hemorrhage at the hospital. He was 53. After his death, the Discovery Channel aired the final episodes he filmed and aired a special tribute in his memory.prevnext
Russell Armstrong was the estranged husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong. He took his own life on Aug. 15, 2011. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that RHOBH's second season was re-edited after Armstrong's death. Armstrong was reportedly not happy with his portrayal on the show and threatened to sue cast members who insulted him on camera. His family also threatened to sue Bravo.prevnext
Diem Brown was a star on MTV's Real World and The Challenge franchises. She battled ovarian cancer and used her fame to raise awareness of the disease. After six years of remission, the cancer returned in 2012. Her cancer went back into remission in 2013 but returned in June 2014. She died in November 2014 at age 34.prevnext
In 2012, Swamp People star Mitchell Guist had an accident while loading up his boat on the Belle River in Louisiana. At first, it was thought he had a seizure, but it was later discovered he suffered a heart attack and his cause of death was listed as natural causes. He was 47 years old. The History Channel later dedicated a 2012 episode to his memory.prevnext
Najai Turpin was a Philadelphia-born boxer who starred on The Contender, a series that has aired on NBC, ESPN, Versus, and Epix over the years. Turpin committed suicide in February 2005 in his car, with his girlfriend and 2-year-old daughter inside. Those close to him did not understand why Turpin took his own life. However, he could not fight between the time he lost on The Contender and when his elimination aired. He was also reportedly in a custody battle with his girlfriend at the time of his death. He was 23.prevnext
Nicholas "Duffy" Fudge
Wicked Tuna star Nicholas "Duffy" Fudge suddenly died in July 2018 in New Hampshire, between seasons of the show. His cause of death was never officially made public, but colleagues reportedly told the New Hampshire Union Leader he might have had "the bends." When Wicked Tuna returned in March, Fudge's captain, Tyler McLaughlin, dedicated his season to his friend and first mate.prev