Tragic Stories About Swamp People

There's a lot to be said for the simpler life, but even though a less complicated existence might seem pretty brilliant, it's not necessarily. Just ask any of the people who star in History Channel's "Swamp People," or — for that matter — any of the thousands of other people who rely on hunting some of the most dangerous animals in the Louisiana swamps in order to make ends meet and keep food on the table. 

Troy Landry explained to Explore Louisiana: "We live simple; we don't have a lot and we don't want a lot. We just have what we need. I'm not worried about the Joneses down the street. ... I just make sure we have what we need, and we've always been blessed. We've always made our living off the land." That's refreshing, certainly, but when that living involves wrestling and killing creatures that are tough enough to have been around for millions of years? It's not for everyone, and it's definitely not for the faint of heart.

And let's be clear here: Those millions of years? That's not an exaggeration. Alligators and crocodiles have been around in a recognizably modern form for somewhere around 85 million years... and they've been around in an even more ancient form than that. Earlier versions co-existed with the dinosaurs, and some could reach lengths of up to 40 feet. So, they've had plenty of time to perfect being violent murder-logs, but still, when tragedy has struck the cast members of "Swamp People," it hasn't been the alligators' fault.

Mitchell Guist's death

When "Swamp People" favorite Mitchell Guist passed away suddenly in 2012, reports were conflicting. When reprinted the news from the Associated Press, they said that Guist, who was in his late 40s, had fallen while on his boat, and that 911 tapes seemed to suggest that he had suffered a cardiac episode of some sort.

When CNN reported on Guist's death, they gave some different information. They said that Guist had suffered a seizure while working on his boat, and that the person he was working with got him back on the boat, to shore, and performed CPR while another person called for help.

The official statement from "Swamp People" read that he had "passed on the swamp, doing what he loved. We appreciate your respect for the Guist family's privacy and hope you join us in sending our thoughts and prayers to his brother, Glenn, and the rest of the Guist family." Guist's death was understandably devastating for his brother: At the time of his death, the lifelong bachelors were still living in the same house they had grown up in.

Randy Edwards was killed in a car accident

The name "Randy Edwards" isn't an uncommon or unusual one, and when WAFB 9 News initially reported on a press release from the Louisiana State Police, "Swamp People" wasn't mentioned. The release stated simply that it was September 15, 2018, when a man named Randy Edwards was killed in an early-morning car accident. The report stated that when the driver missed a left-hand turn, he struck a pole, and was thrown from the vehicle and killed.

It wasn't until a few days later that WAFB updated the story with more information, and confirmed that it was the Randy Edwards of "Swamp People." It was confirmed by both members of his family and his agent, and at the time, the cause of the accident was still being investigated. Law enforcement did immediately note, however, that he had apparently not been wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, although there's no way of knowing whether or not that would have made a difference. He was 35 years old at the time of his death.

Tyler the dog's heartbreaking death

When Bruce Mitchell threw a retirement party for his dog, Tyler, he explained that it was kind of a no-brainer. Tyler was family, he was retiring, and of course he was going to get a party! (And, he added, a bigger one than he would have arranged for most people, as is only correct.) Humans come and go, and we're all familiar with the inevitable end that we all must face alone. Humans, at least, get an average of 7 decades or so, but dogs? Not so much, and let's be honest: That's harder to think about than the inevitability of saying goodbye to most people.

On April 29, 2014, the "Swamp People" Facebook page shared a post from Mitchell. He was announcing the heartbreaking death of not only his best friend, but his steadfast companion and fan favorite. Tyler — renowned for his ability to eat zebra cakes — was 13 years old at the time of his death, and according to TMZ, it wasn't entirely unexpected. Tyler had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure three years prior to his passing, which — while not necessarily an immediate death sentence — can impact quality of life and shorten life span.

Ashley Jones has opened up about her miscarriage and depression

Killing alligators for a living is a tough job, so it goes without saying that the people who do it have to be pretty hardcore. In 2019, Ashley Jones shared some incredibly personal details with the Clarion Ledger, and when she revealed just what had led her down the path of hunting alligators, well, tough doesn't even begin to cover it.

Jones revealed that she had suffered a catastrophic loss that made her reevaluate her entire life: "What put me in the depression was a miscarriage. I was in depression for three months without even knowing it. It was like I was dead inside. It was like just going through the motions of life without getting anything back from it. It was a hormonal imbalance and that's normal, but I didn't have anything I was passionate about to fall back on."

After long months of just sort of drifting through the days, Jones says that her husband finally said that it had been so long since he'd heard her laugh, he was going to take her deer hunting to try to get her out of her depression. She said that it worked: Although she missed the deer she fired at that time, getting her trophy buck became her life's work. From there, the rush of hunting took her into the swamp, where she and her husband booked hog-hunting trips with Ronnie Adams. He thought she would be a natural fit for the show, and the rest is television history.

Dusty Crum nearly lost his leg in a car accident

Alligator-hunting is one thing, but traipsing barefoot through the swamps to catch 16-foot-long pythons is a whole other thing entirely — but that's what Dusty Crum does. And it's a good thing he's incredibly tough, because he was in a major car accident in 2021, that nearly cost him his leg and his life.

According to the Herald-Tribune, Crum was riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle that suffered a tire blowout on the interstate. The vehicle flipped several times, and early reports suggested that he had saved his own life; he had the awareness and strength to tie a tourniquet on his leg before emergency crews could airlift him to a nearby hospital and immediately get him into surgery.

He later told TMZ more about the accident, and recalled trying to stop the bleeding while laying on the side of the road. His ordeal didn't end with his trip to the emergency room, either: He spent four weeks in the hospital, went through a series of surgeries, and spent some time in physical therapy. While he recovered, bills mounted: It was reported that he didn't have insurance, and a GoFundMe was set up to help him cover overwhelming medical costs.

Tommy Chauvin was involved in two major accidents

In 2012, HuffPost picked up on a story from the Texarkana Gazette, which reported that Tommy Chauvin and Joe LaFont had been just two people involved in a massive, five-car pileup, which started when another driver decided they didn't need to obey highway safety directions being given in a construction area. Although injuries were minor and the "Swamp People" cast members escaped unscathed, the same couldn't be said when he was involved in another accident a few years later.

Details are scarce, but the photos shared on a GoFundMe page set up for him are the sort of thing that needs to come with a warning. Chauvin, the page says, "was involved in an incident causing a blast injury to his entire body, rupturing his eardrums, damaging his eyes, and multiple abrasions on his chest and arms. The accident also resulted in traumatic amputation of the right hand and thumb."

The outcome of the surgeries and the ultimate extent of his injuries were unclear, but it was noted that the road to recovery was going to be a long one. Chauvin would have to relearn how to do a lot of basic, everyday tasks, and it was unclear just when he would be back on the swamp.