Tragic Details About The Mythbusters Cast

It sure seemed like tragedy, death, and/or destruction could break out at any time on the average episode of "MythBusters," the long-running, ultra-popular Discovery Channel reality series. But those gleefully aggressive and televised experiments only ever resulted in near-misses and acquired knowledge. In testing human capabilities and exploring (or debunking) commonly held beliefs, the crew of "MythBusters" more often than not flirted with danger with its explosive, speed-driven, and pyrotechnic-laden assignments. 

But while on screen, everything usually turned out okay in the "MythBusters" crew's tireless pursuit of truth, proof, and scientific discovery, away from the cameras and the set, the sprawling cast of enthusiastic testers, busters, drivers, and experts experienced perhaps more than their fair share of tragedy. Before, during, and after the show, the "MythBusters" family, who usually tried to unlock the secrets of the universe, experienced the ugly and callous side of reality in the form of tragedies and brutal life moments. Here's a look at some of the worst moments in the lives of the cast of "MythBusters."

Grant Imahara died of an aneurysm

Grant Imahara came onboard "MythBusters" in Season 3, and he would eventually appear in more than 200 episodes as both a host and a hands-on myth tester. An esteemed roboticist and electrical engineer, Imahara also boasted show business credentials via his work as a special effects master for Industrial Light and Magic, the film lab founded by George Lucas. Imahara worked on "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" before delving into reality TV. In 2014, the Discovery Channel scaled back "MythBusters," reverting to original hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, thereby firing show veterans Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Imahara. The trio then embarked on their own series, "White Rabbit Project" for Netflix, testing out concepts, myths, and tech from history.

In July 2020, Imahara suffered an aneurysm. According to WebMD, that's when one of the brain's blood vessels pops and leads to a hemorrhage. It's a sudden and often fatal medical event, and Imahara's proved deadly. The scientist and TV personality was 49 years old.

Jessi Combs died while trying to set a record

In the 2000s and 2010s, Jessi Combs was the person reality TV producers went to when they needed someone to demonstrate the capabilities of extremely fast cars. A fabricator and elite racer, Combs hosted "Overhaulin'," appeared many times on "How to Build... Everything," guested on "Jay Leno's Garage," and showed up on seven episodes of "MythBusters," hosting the series in its seventh and eighth seasons.

Combs was well qualified to explore and test out automotive common knowledge and misconceptions on "MythBusters." Before and concurrent to her time as a contributor to the series, Combs was a world-class motorsport competitor. In 2013, she earned the title of "fastest woman on four wheels" when she set a land speed record, pushing a jet-powered vehicle to 398 miles per hour. Five years later, she crushed her own record, taking another jet car up to 483 miles per hour. In August 2019, Combs once more set out to create a new record with an attempt in Oregon's Alvord Desert. During the experimental, high-speed run, Combs lost control of the vehicle and it crashed. The accident claimed the life of the automobile builder, driver, and expert. Combs was 39 years old.

Kari Byron's long history of depression and postpartum depression

For the first decade of "MythBusters," hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were joined by Kari Byron as an on-screen personality and active experiment participant. Or, as Byron explained in her memoir "Crash Test Girl," "My role was to be the happy girl, the one who could be relied on to laugh and squeal at gross things." That persona belied a serious mental health struggle: "No one on the show or in my wider social circles knew a secret I'd kept for some thirty years: I contend with severe bouts of depression."

Byron believes that her depression first presented when she was 12 years old, brought on by adolescent fluctuations in hormones. She wrote that she "kept [her] mouth shut and got really good at hiding [her] symptoms," including sadness, mood swings, and sleep difficulties. When the reality star reached her twenties, she sought medical assistance and received an official depression diagnosis and was prescribed medication to treat the disease, but found that the antidepressants didn't much alleviate her symptoms at first. The depression grew especially tough when it evolved into postpartum depression. For six months after the birth of her daughter, Stella, Byron endured that particular form of mental illness.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Erik Gates died in a construction accident

When the subject of rockets came up on "MythBusters," and it did a lot, the regular crew brought in an expert who knew far more about the mechanics of that field than they did. Also seen on the rocket-based reality competition series "Master Blasters," Erik Gates offered his unique knowledge base on four episodes of "MythBusters," including the 2003 pilot, billed as an "Amateur Rocket Expert." Gates would also assist on experiments in 2004 and 2005 episodes involving primitive and historical rockets and aeronautics.

When Gates wasn't on television, he was an electrical contractor, the owner and operator of Gateco Electric in Ventura County, California. In 2009, the cancer survivor was laboring on the roof of a business complex when the surface collapsed. Gates plunged 30 feet, and through a skylight. The local coroner's office determined that Gates, who died at the scene, suffered blunt force chest injuries in the accident. The rocketry expert and reality TV contributor was 47 years old.

EMT Sanjay Singh died unexpectedly

With its various hosts blowing up stuff, launching projectiles, and using themselves as test subjects in unpredictable experiments, all as a matter of course, "MythBusters" was one of the most dangerous shows on TV. Many series have a medical team on standby, and "MythBusters" used its emergency crew so often that on-set paramedic Sanjay Singh became a recognizable member of the cast. He'd ultimately appear on three episodes of "MythBusters," between 2004 and 2007, helping to dispense medical attention and driving an ambulance. The Season 8 installment "Storm Chasing Myths" would mark Singh's last contribution to "MythBusters," and it would end with a card dedicating the episode to the memory of the emergency medical technician and, according to a posting on the show's Facebook page, "Honorary MythBuster."

"I'm a very sad Mythbuster," host Adam Savage wrote on X, then known as Twitter, in October 2010. "Sanjay Singh, a regular EMT for us for 8 years, passed away this week."