Blake Painter, star of the popular Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch, was found dead on May 25. One month later, his cause of death is under investigation, with new details emerging from police reports published by TMZ.
Multiple drugs were reportedly found at the scene of Painter’s death. Tramadol, a narcotic painkiller, was found, along with an unlabeled bottle containing an assortment of other pills. A pipe, tinfoil, and a container believed to contain heroin and meth were also discovered by police investigating the scene.
“On the table, I located a straw or pipe, tinfoil with brown residue and a small Altoids container. Inside the Altoids container was a black substance wrapped in a tan colored plastic a[n]d white crystal substance in a small baggy,” the police report stated.
While an official cause of death and toxicology report have yet to be released, the harrowing details of the events leading up to and directly after Painter’s death raise many questions. At the request of Painter’s friend, police performing a wellness check at Painter’s home determined that Painter had been dead for several days. He was just 38 years old.
The Astoria, Oregon native had encountered law enforcement for drug use in the past. The local newspaper, The Daily Astorian, reported Painter’s arrest for driving under the influence of intoxicants, citing unlawful possession of heroin among his charges. An officer allegedly “saw Painter smoking the drug while driving, and he later hid the paraphernalia in the car prior to stopping.”
Driving under the influence of drugs can result in a felony conviction in certain states; it is unclear how events transpired following Painter’s arrest in January of this year until his death in late May.
Painter appeared on Deadliest Catch during seasons 2 and 3. He was a second-generation crab fisherman, and served as skipper of the F/V Maverick throughout his time on the show.
A 2013 Seattle Weekly profile on crab fishermen included Painter, describing the many hardships of the industry. Of Painter, the Seattle Weekly reporter wrote, “These days he wakes up in the morning with his hands clamped closed and pain screaming up to his elbows, an ailment fishermen refer to as ‘the claw.’ He needs surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome, and his shoulders and back have also fared poorly.”
In that same article, Painter lamented the feast-or-famine nature of crab fishing, though spoke openly of the “quick” money he would make while at sea when things were going well. He told the publication that it was not uncommon to make $1,000 per day.
The harsh climate and intense work required for fishermen has long-since been documented, though with shows such as Deadliest Catch, the general public has caught a glimpse of a career path that comes with intense physical risk.
Painter, who began working on boats at 19, held his skipper position for six years.
A close-knit community of fishermen will mourn the loss of Painter, with current Deadliest Catch captain Keith Colburn writing, “[…] Fair winds and following seas, Captain. Rest easy; we have the watch.”
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