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Real Stories of People Who Died While Filming

TV has been around for about 90 years. Over that near-century, we've seen the good, the bad, and even experienced stories of people who died while filming.

It's hard to believe, but television is almost 100 years old. The first TV was invented in 1928, and since then, we have had thousands of television shows grace the small screen. TV has played a massive role in history, especially when it came to news broadcasts and more. 

This brings us to a morbid topic that is often taboo in polite society—witnessing real death on TV. Death is actually fairly common on television, especially in dramas and newsreels. 

During Vietnam, TV stations showed clips of the war to people across the nation and incited a number of major protests. Today, television has everything from gruesome clips of police shootouts to crazily gorey dramas. 

Not all death on television was on purpose, though. At times, major stars and cast members ended up kicking the bucket. It's happened with a number of stars, even while filming movies. That's how Steve Irwin died, how Bruce Lee died, and how Heath Ledger died. 

Some deaths caught on camera are really surprising, though. People you'd never expect either kicked the bucket during filming periods or died on camera. Here are some of the most surprising you might not have heard about. 

Shain Gandee

One of the more recent stories of people who died while filming comes from MTV's fairly recent dalliance with reality TV. Technically, this didn't happen while cameras were rolling, but it did happen during filming. So, close enough and light enough to start this list off. 

Following the runaway success of Jersey Shore, executives decided to stick with the idea of having a bunch of idiots partying as the main core of the program. 

The only thing is that they may have underestimated how self-destructive a bunch of morons can be when they are drunk and buzzed. So, when they shot Buckwild about a bunch of country boys in the hills of West Virginia, nothing could *possibly* go wrong, right?

Well, Gandee and two other stars got blitzed one night after a day of drinking. They then got into a pickup truck to go mudding. The truck sank into the mud past the muffler, and they got stuck. The exhaust got clogged and poured into the truck.

All three ended up being found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. Yay mudding. 

Phil Harris

Reality TV abuses are a dime a dozen, and a lot of allegations have come forth about horrific treatment. For example, The Biggest Loser was famous for being extremely abusive to contestants—often to the point of permanently damaging their bodies and bringing them to the brink of death. 

However, when it comes to reality television, few will have the gall to show contestants and stars dying. That's what made The Deadliest Catch a different show. This show features sailors and fishermen as they try to catch crabs in the deep sea. 

Phil Harris, one of the lead fishermen and an accomplished sea captain, died of a stroke while the cameras were rolling. The show actually broadcast it and featured a tribute episode. 

Opportunistic? Possibly. It's hard to tell. Reality television changed what TV meant in that way. 

Christine Chubbuck

Perhaps one of the saddest stories of people who died while filming belongs to Christine Chubbuck. During her time as a newscaster, Chubbuck was known for having problems—serious emotional ones. 

Presenters at Suncoast Digest remembered Chubbuck as being extremely depressed and obsessed with finding a partner. More specifically, Chubbuck was known for feeling very alone. 

Chubbuck also had a deep dislike of violence. That, paired with increasing pressure from station management to display more crime, gore, and depressing stories ended up making her blow a fuse. 

During her news segment, she ended her life by announcing, "In keeping with Channel 40's policy in bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first—an attempted suicide."

She then shot herself in the head, killing herself during her show. 

Tommy Cooper

Tommy Cooper was an extremely popular British comedian during the 70s, known for his hilarious skits and often over-the-top sense of humor. A hard worker to the very end, he was one of many people who died while filming live television. 

During a taping of Live From Her Majesty's, Tommy Cooper was performing one of his better-known acts when an aneurysm struck. He collapsed into a sitting position and then slumped over as the crowd cheered. 

It took a few gratuitously long minutes before people realized it wasn't part of the act and cut to commercials. The taping was broadcast throughout Britain, much to the shock of audiences throughout the country. 

John Ritter

John Ritter is a name you might recognize from the hit series, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter as well as Three's Company. What many people don't realize is that he's one of the many people who died while filming the very television show that helped them gain fame. 

Ritter was literally mid-line when he suddenly collapsed on the ground. Producers sent him to the hospital, where they diagnosed him with a torn aorta. He was declared dead soon after. 

His death was never aired on television, and his character was written out of the script. 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter continued on without him, using David Spade as a replacement. It seems really cold to have such a low-key way of removing him from the script, but hey, the show must go on. 

Bryce Dion

Not all of the people who died while filming TV shows were stars. Bryce Dion, for example, was a veteran staff member on the hit crime-fighting show Cops. This show follows real police officers as they cruise around in cars, fight crimes, and occasionally get into shootouts. 

When it comes to taping, Cops is reality TV gone to an extreme. During tapings, crew members are given bulletproof vests. Even so, it's a risky job compared to others. 

According to the LA Times, tragedy struck when police got into a shootout with a suspect who brandished an airsoft pistol at police. Police killed the assailant, but they also hit Dion in the crossfire. He died during the filming. 

Police only realized after the shooting that the pistol was an airsoft. It makes you wonder what a little gun control in this country could have done to prevent it, don't you think?

Jon-Erik Hexum

CBS star Jon-Erik Hexum had a lot going for him during the 80s. He had great looks, an excellent acting persona, and tons of fans. He was the star of Cover Up, a sitcom that involved a former Green Beret who decided to become a male model after his tour. 

Cover Up was a little bit mystery, a little comedy, and all classically 80s cheese. However, the laughs stopped after Hexum picked up a gun he loaded with blanks and then shot himself in the head during a joke. 

The funny thing about blanks is that they still make a huge blast. The shockwave from the blast hit his brain and shattered his skull. He died as a result of the gun's blast. 

Studio executives tried to cover up the Cover Up star's death, but the show never made it past Season One. 

M.N. Vijayan

In the West, most of us have not heard of M.N. Vijayan. In his home country of India, M.N. Vijayan was known as "The Scholar Who Knew Too Much." The acclaimed speaker, scholar, and actor was known for his leftist views and for his speeches. 

The 77-year-old seemed to be doing well, and even had a live press conference scheduled. Halfway through the first couple of lines, Vijayan clutched his chest and collapsed due to a cardiac arrest. 

Though he may be ranked as one of the many people who died while filming on live television, there's a lot of suspicion about his death. People were already very iffy about him having heart disease and trying to climb up as many stairs as he had to in order to make it to the conference. 

More specifically, people wondered why M.N. Vijayan was taken to a hospital that was prohibitively far away, and why it seemed like people were so unwilling to treat him. 

Robert Dwyer

One thing about television that people tend to overlook are the sheer number of times politicians tend to have filming sessions. Senator Robert "Budd" Dwyer was a Pennsylvania politician who was under duress after being framed for graft and corruption charges. 

He called a press conference, the tapes started to roll, and he took out a gun. He then committed suicide on live camera, in front of all the newscasters. The suicide was shown throughout the country, and later on, it became clear that he was actually not at fault for the entire thing. 

Tragically, being revealed as innocent doesn't take you off the list of people who died while filming. All it really does is just show how cruel politics can become. 

Jerome Rodale

Jerome Rodale might be one of the most shocking stories of people who died while filming on this list. He was an avid health enthusiast who regularly railed against terrible practices like eating sugar and drinking soda. 

Rodale was very confident about his health. This was a guy who regularly said he'd "live to 100, unless I'm run over by a sugar-crazed taxi driver." 

During a taping of The Dick Cavett Show, Rodale was interviewed about his health practices. As Cavett turned to interview another guest, Rodale had a heart attack and slumped over in his chair. 

Cavett didn't seem to notice that Rodale was dead for a bit. The other interviewee, Pete Hamill, noticed that Rodale was acting kind of dead. He then turned to Cavett and said in a low voice, "Uh, this looks bad."

The episode was never aired. So far for living to 100, eh?

Brandon Lee

Even though we regularly mentioned this was a TV-only list, we're going to add two more stories of people who died while filming, simply because they are so popular. Brandon Lee, son of the globally famous martial artist Bruce Lee, was one of the hottest up-and-coming movie stars of the 90s.

His most famous work, The Crow, also proved to be his last. In it, Lee played a deceased rockstar who was murdered—and was out for vengeance in the name of love. During the final scene that needed to be shot, one of the actors pointed a gun at Brandon Lee. 

The gun was supposed to hold blanks. The bullets were real. He was pronounced dead on set. Oddly enough, his father died very young too. Some say it's a Hollywood family curse. 

Steve Irwin

The last entry on our list of horrifying stories of people who died while filming was a reality TV legend: Steve Irwin. Known for his sunny smile and for pissing off crocodiles, Steve Irwin was a man who basically lived to talk about wild animals. 

He faced lions, tigers, and bears—but what ended up being his undoing was a sting ray. Sting rays rarely attack, but for some reason, this massive 8-foot sting ray had other plans. 

The sting ray attacked him, flailing wildly all the while. The cameraman who witnessed it claimed that the ray caused "hundreds of strikes within a few seconds." 

Irwin tried to back away, but the ray's barb got lodged deeply in his chest. The cameraman didn't realize anything was wrong until he looked at Irwin and saw him standing in a pool of his own blood. 

Though staff tried to keep him alive, it was clear that Irwin wasn't going to make it. His last words were, "I'm dying."

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