The 10 Worst Reality Show Tragedies — So Far
A helicopter crash over the weekend took the lives of three people in California who were filming for a new reality TV show for the Discovery Channel. The network hasn’t released the name of the show or the victims. Although a tragedy of this magnitude is rare for reality TV and otherwise, it’s not the first time that death has crept into the production of popular shows. Here’s a look back at ten people who achieved some level of reality TV fame only to see it all come crashing down
The world-famous “Crocodile Hunter” died in 2006 while filming underwater in his native Australia. The 44-year-old outdoorsman was shooting a documentary, called “Ocean’s Deadliest,” on the Great Barrier Reef when a stingray stung him in the heart. “It’s a huge loss to Australia, he was a wonderful character, he was a passionate environmentalist, he brought entertainment and excitement to millions of people,” Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.
MTV shot eight episodes in 2009 of ‘Gone Too Far,’ a series that followed the life of DJ AM as he helped young addicts get sober, before the show was tabled as a result of DJ AM’s untimely death. Police discovered drug paraphernalia at the apartment of the 36-year-old, and because of this the network ultimately decided not to air the show, though some people believed that DJ AM’s death only made the message of the series that much clearer and louder.
Just months earlier in 2009, the reality television community was enthralled by another strange saga when a manhunt began in pursuit of Ryan Jenkins, who allegedly murdered his ex-wife and model Jasmine Fiore. Jenkins was eventually found dead, having committed suicide. The case made national headlines because Jenkins had been a contestant on ‘Megan Wants a Millionaire.’
He was troubled, but also beloved. Last summer, the sad tale of 29-year-old Joey Kovar came to an end from what appeared to be a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol. Kovar had appeared on ‘The Real World’ and ‘Celebrity Rehab,’ where he had won the hearts of his fans. In the days before his death, Kovar reportedly wrote on Twitter: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us… Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
Brian Lee Randone
He had appeared on the TV beauty pageant ‘The Sexiest Bachelor in America,’ but there was nothing admirable about his other claims to fame: Brian Lee Randone murdered his girlfriend, an ex-adult movie actress in 2009. He beat and choked Felicia Lee during a domestic dispute at the apartment they shared, and when he discovered that she was unconscious he called 911, but it was too late.
Everyone tunes into ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ for the drama, but the off-screen drama is what grabbed people’s attention in 2011. Cast member Taylor Armstrong’s husband Russell Armstrong committed suicide when the cameras weren’t rolling. Just three weeks later, an episode of the show aired on Bravo in which cast members shared their feelings about the tragedy. Armstrong was 47.
Did Gordon Ramsay lead a young chef to commit suicide? That’s what everyone wondered in 2010 after Joseph Cerniglia jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Cerniglia had been a contestant on ‘Kitchen Nightmares,’ where Ramsay had asked him some pretty harsh things like, “Why did you decide to go into business if you haven’t got a clue how to run a business?” We may never know why Cerniglia really did it. But just a week later people were asking the same questions after another Ramsay-chided chef killed herself.
A 7-year-old on “The First 48″
A police officer was charged in 2011 in the slaying of a 7-year-old girl who was shot to death during a police raid on her home, while a reality television show crew captured the episode. The officer’s gun accidentally discharged. The film crew was on hand to film a part of A&E’s ‘The First 48′ reality TV show. The tragic event led to an outcry for more discretion on the part of reality shows, when filming in dangerous situations.
The forgettable 2005 NBC show ‘The Contender’which focused on up-and-coming boxers is only really remembered for the tragic death of Najai ‘Nitro’ Turpin, age 23. His suicide didn’t appear to be connected to his appearance on the reality show, as Turpin attracted attention for his positive portrayal and attitude. His sister said, “He was so excited. He couldn’t wait to see the expressions of people when they saw him on TV. He reached his goal. He got to TV. He was famous.”
This ‘American Idol’ reject took her own life inside of a car near the Los Angeles home of Paula Abdul in 2008. Paula Goodspeed had appeared on the FOX competition in 2006 and had a particular affinity for Abdul, even possessing the license plate “ABL LV.” It was Goodspeed’s dream to perform on “Idol,” but the judges eliminated her.