The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office announced yesterday that the deaths of Buckwild star Shain Gandee, his uncle, David Dwight Gandee, and friend Donald Robert Myers were accidental and the result of carbon monoxide poisoning. The bodies of the three men were found in Shain’s 1984 Ford Bronco Monday morning with the vehicles tailpipe submerged in mud. There were no other details released and the cause of death was described as a “partial” finding. The KCSO plans to release more information soon.
“The vehicle [seen above, after it was pulled out] sat unevenly, but upright, and was partially submerged in deep mud. Mud was covering the lower part of the passenger side door of the vehicle, but the driver’s side of the vehicle was above the mud,” according to the sheriff’s report. “The muffler of the vehicle was completely submerged in mud. The Bronco was found next to a ridgetop trail. That section of the trail itself was passable for four-wheel drive vehicles. However, the Bronco was in a mud pit next to the trail. That area is accessed by following the wooded trails for approximately one mile from Shain Gandee’s residence, near Thaxton Hollow in Sissonville.”
Though production on Buckwild Season 2 began weeks ago, the ill-fated four-wheeling trip was not being filmed for the show and was further evidence that what we saw of Shain on television was exactly like Shain in real life. His father said Shain “died doing what he loved to do.”
Production on the second season has been suspended by MTV indefinitely, and the network has set up on-location grief counseling for the cast, crew and their families. There has been no official decision on when or if production will continue.
A public service will be held for Shain on Sunday with Buckwild production companies Parallel Entertainment and Zoo Productions paying all the funeral expenses. “Shain was a great kid with a big heart who had endless love for his mom and dad,” Parallel CEO J.P. Williams tells TMZ. “I am from West Virginia and this show reminded me of how I grew up.”
“As for the donation websites that have been raising money to help pay for the funeral — we’re told that money will now go toward expenses incurred by Shain’s family during the recovery effort,” the site says. “We’re told any remaining money will go towards the funeral of the other two men that were killed, including Shain’s uncle.”
The tragedy occurs just after it was announced the cast (minus troubled star Salwa Amin) had all received a 400% increase in pay for the sophomore season, going from $1,000 to $4,000 an episode — which seems a little low to me, but I have to remember that technically there were two half-hour episodes per week in Season 1, and I assume they were going to keep the same format, but with more episodes, for Season 2.
We tracked the Buckwild ratings week by week (click here to see the chart) and the show was a huge success for MTV, with an average viewership of 2.39 million viewers a week and more than 2.7 million tuning in for the Season Finale. But, as we’ve mentioned on several occasions, the whole show seemed to pivot on Shain. After the first two back-to-back episodes premiered I wrote:
Personally, I think Buckwild is going to hang in there and be a hit. Shain Gandee is an authentic, unique, charismatic and distinctly West Virginian personality that you just can’t manufacture. (Without him the show really could have taken place anywhere in the South – rural or not.)
Nothing that happened throughout the course of the rest of the season changed my opinion about that. Shain Gandee IS Buckwild — no two ways about it. The show depends conceptually on having a rural West Virginia feel, and that is what Shain brought to the table — in spades. I liked the rest of the cast just fine, but take away their accents and the majestic Appalachian scenery and they are pretty much your young 20-somethings from just about anywhere in the country.
Shain was a real deal West Virginia mountain boy! He didn’t care about Facebook or cell phones or clothing brands or even about being famous for being on a reality show. He just liked having fun with his family and friends in the way that his family and friends had fun — which was distinctly West Virginian to say the least!
In other words, I just can’t imagine MTV could move forward with a full Buckwild Season 2 without completely revamping the concept to a more serious series in which these fun-loving youngsters struggle with the tragic death of their good friend. Even then, I think it’s too much to expect from the rest of the cast to make that shift and become a super-serious World of Jenks kind of show dealing with Shain’s passing.
That being said, I do feel it’s important that MTV put together at least a special dedicated to Shain in which friends and family (and fellow cast mates) can share their stories and provide a public, communal sort of wake for those viewers like me who developed a real affinity for Shain and want to share our grief.
I watch a ton of reality TV programming and it is very rare that someone is able to put a smile on my face just about every time he or she is on the screen. Shain did that. Easily. Rest in peace Shain.