Last night’s episode of Discovery’s “Storm Chasers” included a sad and surprising revelation. Aptly titled Dedication, the episode concluded by revealing that team member Matt Hughes died on May 26, 2010, several days after the triumphant episode filmed.
This was particularly jarring because 30-year-old Hughes appeared healthy and survived the obvious danger – the tornadoes – in the show. Strangely, news of his passing managed to stay relatively quiet for several months.
In response to the show’s airing, curious fans turned to the internet with queries about how storm chaser Matt Hughes died. Many likely expected to see storm chasing as the culprit. In a tribute on its website, the Discovery Channel briefly explained his death as the result of an “injury unrelated to his chasing”.
How much do fans deserve to know about Matt Hughes’ death?
Hughes’ enthusiasm, familiarity and likeability added to his appeal on the “Storm Chasers”, but this also serves as a reminder that he was a real person, not an actor or fictional character. He was a real person who left behind friends and family, including a wife and two young sons, who are suffering from a great loss.
In recent years, people callously blamed, speculated and commented on the deaths of high-profile figures including John Travolta’s son, Jett, and more recently, Marie Osmond’s son, Michael, without regard for the family’s suffering. Various message boards and the Discovery Website echo requests to respect the family’s privacy. This is indeed a private matter and the family deserves compassion. At the very least, uninformed bloggers and writers should refrain from presenting their opinions as fact.
Hughes’ death was not related to the TV show. There is not a hazard to the public. There is not a criminal eluding justice. The storm chaser’s death is not a mystery. Some people are simply choosing to show respect and compassion by exercising discretion.
Next week’s episode of “Storm Chasers”, Smoke Monster, further addresses his death as the team deals with the loss.
There is a special memorial fund for Hughes’ sons.
Matthew John Hughes Memorial Fund
c/o Intrust Bank
142 North Ash
Valley Center, Kansas
“Matt Hughes Tribute”, DiscoveryChannel.com