Ralph Kiser, 'Survivor' Competitor, Dead at 56

Former Survivor: Redemption Island star Ralph Kiser has died. Kiser, who finished the CBS series' 22nd season in eighth place, passed away at around 3:15 a.m. on Wednesday, with his nephew George Kiser telling The Sun, "he was a hard working man, and a damn good hunter." He was 56.

Kiser's passing was also confirmed in a Facebook post by Survivor superfan Michael Allbright, who informed his followers, "I have some unfortunate news for the Survivor community. Ralph Kiser passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack this morning. His brother Gilbert messaged me this morning to let the Survivor community know." Reflecting on Kiser's time on Survivor, Allbright added, "Ralph was on Redemption Island, was one of the key players from Zapatera, found an idol, targeted Russell Hantz, wasn't mesmerized by Boston Rob like many on Redemption Island, and even voted for Phillip Sheppard to win the game."

Kiser, a farmer from Lebanon, Virginia, applied for Survivor multiple times before finally being cast on 2010's Redemption Island, which combined past contestants with new players. In his official CBS biography, Kiser said, "I've wanted to be on the show for years and knew one day I'd get my chance. I want to be a hometown hero for the folks back home!" Kiser competed s a member of the Zapatera tribe. Heading into the game, Kiser said, according to PEOPLE, "I'm a mountain man. I know plants, trees and what most of their uses are. I can also build anything; start a fire anywhere and make people believe anything I say I will be the king at camp because I can build shelter, cook, find food and be the leader."

Although Kiser got a strong start to the competition, finding himself in a dominant six-person alliance, his game faltered when his alliance was outnumbered following the merge. Kiser's tribe was easily picked off by an opposing tribe led by Survivor legend Boston Rob Mariano, and Kiser ultimately finished Survivor Season 22 in eighth place, later telling PEOPLE, "It was the time of my life. It was a dream come true for a man like me to be in Nicaragua and playing a game to be on television. What does that happen to anyone? Never, that's when. I'd do it again over and over."


News of Kiser's death led to an outpouring of tributes, including from popular Survivor podcast host Mike Bloom. In a tweet, Bloom wrote, "R.I.P. to one of the few lights in a very dark season, who provided 33 days of accidental idol finding, rooster crowing & more."