The allure of the treacherous Bering Sea, where towering waves crash against weather-beaten vessels, has captivated audiences worldwide through the hit television series, Deadliest Catch. Offering an unflinching glimpse into the perilous lives of crab fishermen, the show has brought the dangers of the profession to the forefront. However, behind the captivating on-screen drama lies a chilling reality—the haunting tales of lives lost at sea. The unforgiving nature of the Bering Sea, combined with the demanding working conditions faced by the brave crew members, has resulted in a series of tragic outcomes throughout the history of “Deadliest Catch”. In this video, we’ll take a look at some of the unfortunate stories of the hardworking men at sea.

“Deadliest Catch”

In the vast expanse of the frigid Bering Sea, a battle of epic proportions unfolds season after season. “Deadliest Catch” thrusts viewers into the heart-stopping world of commercial crab fishing, where men face unimaginable dangers in pursuit of their livelihood. “Deadliest Catch” premiered on April 12, 2005, on the Discovery Channel, and has been on air for a total of 19 seasons. This incredibly long run-time stands as a testament to the show’s popularity and its dedicated fanbase.

“Deadliest Catch” offers an unfiltered look into the unforgiving nature of the Bering Sea, known for its treacherous conditions, brutal storms, and towering waves. Each episode presents a harrowing tale of survival, where courageous men aboard crabbing vessels battle against the elements, exhaustion, and the ticking clock. The series showcases the gripping highs and devastating lows of this high-stakes industry, highlighting the camaraderie, sacrifice, and unyielding determination of the crew members as they navigate the dangerous waters to secure their catch.

In addition to the inherent dangers of the profession, the demanding and grueling conditions faced by crew members on “Deadliest Catch” have often taken a toll on their mental health, and led to alarming instances of substance abuse. The extreme physical exertion, prolonged periods of isolation, sleep deprivation, and constant exposure to harsh weather conditions create an environment that can be emotionally and psychologically challenging.

However, the ultimate testament to the dangers of the profession can be seen through statistics. According to CDC, commercial fishing results in over 43 deaths each year in the United States.

Tragic incidents

Throughout the history of “Deadliest Catch” there have been several unfortunate events that resulted in the loss of life. These heart-wrenching events serve as a stark reminder of the inherent risks faced by the brave crew members who navigate the treacherous waters in pursuit of their dangerous profession.

The passing of Captain Phil Harris

Captain Phil Harris, the beloved captain of the F/V (fishing vessel) Cornelia Marie, was a central figure in “Deadliest Catch”. In January 2010, during the show’s sixth season, he suffered a severe stroke while off-loading crab in Alaska. He was quickly transported to a hospital and put into an induced coma in hopes of preventing further damage. After waking from the coma, he showed signs that his health was improving, which surprised all of his doctors. However, despite receiving heavy medical attention, Captain Phil Harris passed away on 9 February 2010 from intracranial hemorrhage. His death deeply impacted the “Deadliest Catch” community, as fans mourned the loss of a charismatic and respected captain.

The death of Justin Tennison

Justin Tennison, a deckhand featured in “Deadliest Catch”, tragically passed away in February 2011 at the age of 34. Justin was a skilled fisherman who lived in Alaska for nearly three decades. His involvement with the show began on Time Bandit, introduced by captain Jonathan Hillstrand. He was found dead in a hotel room in Homer, Alaska, and following an autopsy, the cause of his death was determined to be a combination of alcohol intoxication and sleep apnea.

The loss of Tony Lara

Tony Lara, a boat captain who followed Phil Harris in helming the Cornelia Marie, passed away in August 2015. He was brought on by Josh Harris, as a substitute for his late father Phil, in the winter season of 2011, probably due to their longstanding family relations. However, his time behind the helm of Cornelia Marie was brief, as he vacated his position as captain that same season.

He was participating in a charity event in Sturgis, South Dakota, when he suffered a heart attack, and passed away at the age of 50. Lara was known for his expertise in crab fishing, and his contributions to the fishing community.

The passing of Blake Painter

Blake Painter, a former captain of the F/V Maverick featured on “Deadliest Catch”, passed away in May 2018. He was found dead in his home in Astoria, Oregon, at the age of 38. The cause of his death was speculated to be drug related, as prescription medications were found near his body. Additionally, Blake had previous trouble with the law regarding illegal substances, most notably the possession of heroin. He also faced other charges over the years, including reckless driving.

The Loss of Joseph McMahon

Despite the numerous dangers that can befall the crew members of crabbing vessels, occasionally, trouble finds its way much closer to home. Such was the fate of Joseph McMahon, an associate producer, who was shot just outside his home in Pasadena, California. He was only 24 years old, and had worked with Deadliest Catch on 19 episodes.

The Wreck of Eagle III

In January 2016, while the crew of the Eagle III was crab fishing in the Bering Sea, their vessel encountered turbulent weather conditions, faced with winds of over 30mph and 10-foot-high waves. Tragically, the boat capsized and sank in the Coos Bay, claiming the lives of Josh Paulus, Danny Matlock and Blaine Steinmetz.

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The deaths of these crew members sent shockwaves through the “Deadliest Catch” community, and the fishing industry as a whole. The incident highlighted the immense risks faced by fishermen in these perilous waters, and served as a somber reminder of the hazards associated with the profession.

Captain Glenn Burkhow was the sole survivor of the wreck, as he was fortunate enough to find his way back to the shore. However, getting out of the freezing waters wasn’t the last of his troubles. He had to go another four miles before eventually finding help, at the end of his tether.


The stories of the men at sea and their tragic deaths serve as a poignant reminder of the extreme dangers and sacrifices inherent in the world of commercial fishing. From the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea to the unpredictable weather conditions, these brave individuals face relentless challenges in their pursuit of a livelihood.

The deaths of these men, whether from accidents, vessel sinkings, or health emergencies, are a tragic reminder of the sacrifices made in pursuit of the ocean’s bounty. Their loss reverberates through their families, communities, and the fishing industry as a whole.

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As a Freelance Writer at Biography Pedia, I manage every aspect of our content creation, from rigorous research to narrative excellence, ensuring precision and integrity in our work. Our comprehensive editorial management includes deep investigation, narrative development, and maintaining high standards of quality.

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