‘Deadliest Catch’: How Did Captain Phil Harris Die?

by Shelby Scott

When “Deadliest Catch” first aired in 2005, Captain Phillip “Phil” Harris practically headlined the show. For several seasons afterward, he managed to maintain both a dedicated crew and a dedicated fanbase due to his high energy and drive. However, just five seasons into the show’s running, Harris tragically passed away. Here’s everything we know about the “Deadliest Catch” star’s 2010 passing.

A Multitude of Health Problems Lead to the Captain’s Death

Sadly, it was a long road that lead to Captain Phil Harris’s death. While a stroke served as the final, tragic blow, the “Deadliest Catch” icon’s passing was the culmination of multiple health problems.

According to Looper, Harris sustained a severe injury while asleep on his crabbing vessel way back in the series’ fourth season. While sleeping in his bunk, his ship, the Cornelia Maria, met a harsh wave, which threw the captain across the room. In speaking about his injury, he said, “when we hit that wave, this bench came flyin’ outta here. I came flyin’ on outta bed and landed up against that [wooden dresser].”

The fall put the captain out of commission for the rest of season four, though, to the joy of fans, he returned the following year.

Then, in season six, “Deadliest Catch” viewers saw the captain suffer another major health scare. According to Looper, the 11th episode of that particular season saw the crew become concerned when Phil Harris wasn’t answering the phone. When the crew members went to check on him, they found he’d suffered a massive stroke that left his entire left side numb. While he was conscious upon their arrival, all that the crew, which included his son Josh Harris, could do was watch in silence as medical professionals took him off the ship.

‘Deadliest Catch’ Mourns the Loss of Captain Phil Harris

Given the captain’s undying energy and drive, Harris spent his road to recovery following his stroke creating his own line of coffee. Naming the line “Deadliest Brew,” the outlet states the business venture was a perfect fit for the Captain as he’d been known to down pots of coffee while working aboard his fishing vessel.

Sadly, though, it was his constant caffeine intake, not to mention chain-smoking, that contributed to the “Deadliest Catch” icon’s demise.

By season six, fans, as well as Harris’s crew, not to mention his sons, were forced to say their final goodbye to the captain. As per the outlet, Phil Harris died in 2010 due to complications from his massive stroke, one that the neurosurgeon who operated on him said should have killed him on the spot.

The 14th episode of “Deadliest Catch’s” sixth season functioned as a meaningful tribute to the longtime crab fisherman. In a statement following the captain’s death, Harris’s sons said, “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our dad—Captain Phil Harris. Dad has always been a fighter and continued to be until the end. For us and the crew, he was someone who never backed down. We will remember and celebrate that strength.”