tony_lara_635x250_1439252316 – 12AUG2015

IS ‘THE DEADLIEST CATCH’ CURSED? Tony Lara Dead at 50. The 2nd Captain and 4th Member of the Show to Die

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Tony Lara was the existing captain of the famed Cornelia Marie. That’s the name of the boat that is featured on the Discovery Channel’s sleeper hit, “Deadliest Catch”. “Deadliest Catch” is one of those shows that draw you in regardless if you like boating or fishing. The inherent danger that the Alaskan fisherman face every day at sea is captivating and draws audiences in season after season, however cast and crew of the show are finding it more difficult surviving life on land as opposed to the sea.


Tony Lara joined the crew of the Cornelia back in 2011 and eventually took over after the Cornelia Marie lost their previous captain.  After his death, The Discovery Channel released a statement,

“We’ve lost a member of the ‘Deadliest Catch’ family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family in this very sad time.”

On the show’s facebok page was another tear jerking message; it was obvious that Tony was well loved and respected by many. The statement below was posted early this week:

Last night we lost a great friend, mentor, and a truly wonderful person. Captain Tony Lara passed away peacefully in his sleep. Tony stepped in as Captain after Captain Phil passed away and kept the Cornelia Marie going while passing on his years of knowledge and experience to all of us on the crew. When Captain Casey joined as Captain, Tony came and gave a thorough walk through of the entire boat. He came to see us a couple months ago when he flew down to check out the Cornelia Marie after our big shipyard this year. Our hearts are heavy today. Captain Tony Lara will continue to be in our thoughts and remembered as a generous, talented, smart and caring man. We will miss you Tony.


Tony was attending the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota this past weekend when he passed away of an apparent heart attack while staying at a private residence. He died in his sleep and was discovered at 7:47 AM Saturday morning. Leading up to his death, there were no obvious signs that Lara was in poor health. Family and friends say that they had no indications that there were any underlying issues although he has had problems with his heart in the past. Fellow fisherman Keith Colburn said,

It came as an absolute shock that he had passed away. I know Tony had some heart problems a couple of years back, but he didn’t really talk about it much. Tony was a friend for 20 years and my deepest thoughts go out to his family.

A preliminary autopsy done by the Meade County Sheriff indicated that Lara’s heart had scar tissue consistent with a heart attack. Drugs and alcohol were preliminary ruled out but a formal toxicology report has not come back yet.


As dangerous as the Deadliest catch is, Tony is the fourth cast member to past away and none of the fatalities were caused by accidents at sea.  Let’s take a closer look.

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Age at time of death: 53
Occupation: Captain

Phil was the former captain. Harris suffered a stroke at the age of 53. Phil had a lot of injuries that began to take it’s toll on him and could actually be noticed by fans watching the show. He had four crushed disks in his back and suffered from a pulmonary embolism in 2008. He lived a self-admitted, unhealthy lifestyle. He was known for smoking cigarettes, drinking entire cases of Red Bull and just plain ol’ eating badly. He made strides to change some of these habits, but never quit smoking, which he thinks was his worse issue and a major contributor to the stroke which eventually led to his death.

While crabbing in Alaska, Harris was found by another crew member on the floor and could not move. The left side of his face was completely paralyzed. After calling 911, he was medivacked to a hospital in Alaska. He was operated on and placed in a medically induced coma. It looked like the tough sea captain was going to make another amazing recovery. After being awakened from his coma and spending time with his love ones Phil begin the process of rehabilitation.  On Feb. 9th during physical therapy Harris was with his best friend Dan Mittman. He looked over at his friend and told Dan that he needed a break. Phil said,

Danny, I don’t feel as good as I did yesterday

Shortly after Phil died surrounded by his closest family and friends.

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Age at time of death: 33
Occupation: Deckhand

Almost exactly one year after Phil Harris’ death, Justin Tennison was found dead in an Alaskan hotel room on February 21, 2011. When you hear “hotel room” you automatically think drug overdose. This was not the case. There was some marijuana and a bottle of alcohol found in the room but no initial signs of hard drugs or related paraphernalia. Autopsy reports later revealed that his death was due to complications related to sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can cause enlargement of the heart, high cholesterol, and hardening of the arteries.   This was a shocking death as Tennison had just returned home safely from the treacherous fishing season.  He was home less than two week before he was found dead.  Tennison is survived by his son and daughter and his father.

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Age at time of death: 25
Occupation: Associate producer

Joe McMahon was shot to death in Pasedna California. He worked as an associate producer on 9 episodes of “The Deadliest Catch” in 2013. Joe was killed this year on July 24th.
Neighbors said they heard shots being fired and a car squealing way. Authorities were called onto the scene where they found McMahon suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He died in his neighbors driveway. The reasoning behind the shooting is still unknown. Authorities said the suspect in the murder was a 24-year-old man. He was later found in West LA, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was later confirmed that the two knew each other but the nature of their relationship was never discovered.


Listed in most official studies, fishers and related fishing workers are considered the most dangerous occupations when rated by number of fatalities. Ironically none of these deaths were a direct result of an on the job incident. The fisherman lifestyle definitely played a key role in all of their deaths but not enough for it to be considered in the tally of Bureau of Labor Statistics‘. However it is enough for me to consider it as a possible curse. Just like we have the Moesha curse where 4 members of that cast died, I think we now officially have the Deadliest Catch Curse. Let’ hope also similar to Moesha, it stops at 4.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of all that have passed.