The tale of Joshua Tel Warner is an almost comical saga that intertwines the worlds of crime and entertainment, as was frequently done by numerous producers seeking to improve the viewership of their reality TV series. Such has also been the case many times over with the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” – the world’s most popular fishing show.

One of the best selling points of this title is that the very process of catching marine animals isn’t performed with a fishing rod, but instead with massive steel cages which are used to catch Opilio and King Crabs in the Bering Sea throughout the Alaskan crab fishing seasons.

Even the most experienced sailors of the world’s open waters aren’t accustomed to the extreme weather commonly experienced by the crews in “Deadliest Catch,” which makes their jobs extremely dangerous and thus worthy of screen time.

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The show premiered in 2005, and has since become one of the highest-rated programs on the Discovery Channel, with millions of viewers tuning in each week to watch the drama unfold. Each season follows a group of fishermen as they set out on their boats to catch as many crabs as possible in a short period of time.

The show is known for its high-stress, high-stakes environment, as the fishermen are often fighting against treacherous storms, freezing temperatures, and mechanical failures while they try to make a living from the sea.

Most of the participants are a tough and hardworking group, with many of them having spent their entire lives on the water. They are skilled at navigating the rough and often unpredictable waters of the Bering Sea, and are constantly facing challenges and dangers as they try to bring in their catch.

Some of the common dangers they face include large waves, ice floes, and equipment failures, which can all lead to accidents and injuries. Despite these risks, crew members are dedicated to their jobs, and pretty much always willing to do whatever it takes to bring in an impressive harvest.

One of the most memorable aspects of “Deadliest Catch” is the camaraderie and teamwork that exists among the fishermen. Despite the high-pressure environment and the constant competition to catch the most crabs, the men on the show often come together and support one another in times of need. They rely on each other for help and support, and are always ready to lend a hand when someone is in trouble.

Another interesting aspect of Deadliest Catch is the way it portrays the lives of the fishermen and their families back on land. Many of the cast members have full homes that they must leave behind for months at a time while they are out at sea, and the show gives viewers a glimpse into the challenges and struggles that these families face while their loved ones are away.

What makes the show such a compelling watch

Danger is probably the number one tool for building tension in pretty much anything one could find on television, which in turn makes for great content. This is also the main reason for such immense success of “Deadliest Catch.”

Fishing for crab in the Bering Sea is a hazardous and often deadly occupation. The rough and icy waters that are constantly churned by menacing gusts can be extremely unforgiving, and fishermen are constantly facing a variety of dangers as they try to bring in their catch.

One of the most significant risks that the cast members face is the threat of capsizing or sinking. The boats that are used for crab fishing are usually smaller and less stable than other types of fishing vessels, making them more vulnerable to being capsized by large waves or ice floes. In addition, the weather in the Bering Sea can be extremely volatile, with strong storms and high winds creating dangerous conditions for the fishermen.

Another significant risk that crab fishermen face is the danger of falling overboard. The decks of their boats are almost always wet and slippery, making it easy for even veterans of the craft to lose their footing and drop into a watery grave. Once a person falls overboard, the chances of survival are extremely low, as the water is freezing and the fisherman is likely wearing heavy, and soon water-logged clothing.

In addition to these risks, crab fishermen in the Bering Sea also face the danger of injury or death from equipment failures and other accidents. The boats and gear used for catching crab are subjected to constant wear and tear, and it’s not uncommon for them to break or malfunction.

Facing the many risks and dangers involved in this job on a daily basis, the fishermen who brave these harsh conditions are a tough and resilient group, willing to take on the challenges of the sea to make a living and provide for their families, and many of them have been doing it for their entire lives.

Of course, all of these factors combine to create a rather high-stress environment that not everyone can withstand, especially those afflicted by health issues. One such example was captain Phil Harris from F/V (fishing vessel) Cornelia Marie, who suffered a stroke while on the job, eventually passing away due to an intercranial hemorrhage on 9 February 2010.

Todd Kochutin is another unfortunate victim of this cruel and unforgiving profession, having been struck with a crab pot – an 800-pound (362-kilogram) cage used to fish for king crab. The accident took place when the sea violently rocked the ship, causing some of the equipment to malfunction and the pot to swerve rapidly. Although medical assistance was present on-board at the time, nothing could be done for Kochutin at the time, due to the severity of his injuries.

An even more tragic story from “Deadliest Catch” is that of F/V Ocean Challenger, which was a smaller boat manned by only four crew members that capsized in the Alaskan Gulf in 2006, under wave after wave three times its height. Out of the bunch, only Kevin Ferrell managed to somehow find the time to put on a survival suit, leading him to become the only crewmate to survive the ordeal. David ‘Cowboy’ Hasselquist and Walter Foster were found dead in the water, while Steve Esparza’s lifeless body was discovered at a later date.

Definitely the most harrowing tragedy to have taken place in the series is the sinking of F/V Destination, which went missing with six crewmates on-board in February 2017. The boat was hauling a great bounty back home with over 200 brimming crab pots to sell, having accumulated approximately 340,000lbs (154,000kgs) during the trip.

They wanted to hurry back instead of anchoring to take care of the extra cargo first, but this decision unfortunately led to their demise. The vessel simply couldn’t cope with that much weight any longer, disappearing from everyone’s radar near St. George Island. It was found five months later along with all six of its crew members’ bodies inside.

Joshua’s TV screen crew

At the time of his joining the cast of “Deadliest Catch” in 2009, no one knew that Joshua was in fact looking for yet another adrenaline rush, considering his then-mysterious past that was kept well under wraps.

He was placed as an inexperienced fisherman (called ‘greenhorn’ in the series) among the highly capable crew of the second most frequently featured vessel in the entire series – F/V Wizard, under the watchful and weathered gaze of captain Keith Colburn, who still remains among the great five names of Alaskan crab fishing.

Keith’s life started in 1963 in Nevada USA, around Lake Tahoe. His father Gary Colburn and mother Patricia Langton married soon after first encountering each other at the University of Santa Clara in California, and Keith was raised the second of three sons.

He entered the workforce at the tender age of 14, doing what he could to scrape by and have a semblance of his own income. The situation hadn’t changed much over the next eight years, as the age of 22 he was still working for low wages with few added benefits.

Colburn then got sick of his life in Nevada, and decided to drastically change it up, moving with his childhood best friend Kurt Frankenberg to Kodiak, Alaska in 1995. As both of them had very low income prior to the flight, they arrived with only $50 and a tent. With a temperature averaging 36°F (2.5°C), the duo was undoubtedly hardened by their initial experience up north.

The future captain wasted no time in finding employment nearby, becoming a greenhorn on F/V Alaska Trader soon upon arrival. From the moment Keith encountered the fishing industry and the close-knit bond among crew members united against the forces of nature, he became utterly captivated.

‪We must unite to create a country that is safe, equitable, and just for all. #UnitedNotDivided #UnitedForJustice #vote #useyourvoice ‬

Posted by Capt. Keith Colburn on Saturday, June 6, 2020

Initially seeking only adventure in Alaska, Keith ultimately chose to make crab fishing his lifelong profession. After three years in the state, his experience was sufficient for a new adventure across the icy waves, leading him to become a full-share deckhand on F/V Wizard.

In 1990 he obtained his US Coast Guard license, and transitioned from deckhand to pilot. He received his captain’s license in 1992, and has remained the captain of the vessel ever since. The ownership of the vessel still belonged to someone else, however, and that remained the case for the next 12 years.

In 2002, Keith acquired F/V Sirene (pronounced Sea-Wren) while still running the Wizard. Two years later, he sold the Sirene’s fishing rights as part of a government program that reduced the number of crabbing boats from 250 to 80. Seeing this as an opportunity to solidify his place in the industry, Keith then bought the Wizard.

Keith and his spouse Florence have been partners in both marriage and work for over 25 years. The wife and mother of two handles many of the business aspects of their vessel’s operations, and they both work to find a balance in order to care for their children, Caelan and Sienna.

The vessel is run by a crew of nine hardy sea-goers, including Monte Colburn, who is Keith’s younger brother and F/V Wizard’s relief captain. While the vessel has been in the show since season three, Monte captained it in various episodes of seasons 10, 14, 15 and 16.

The rapid downfall of a would-be celebrity

Josh Warner had his brief stint on the ship in the fifth season in 2009, apparently in a bid to rapidly accumulate funds. He was featured in nine episodes at that time, while content that included his image was also seen in the film entitled “Deadliest Catch: Greenhorns,” which was released in 2011.

F/V Wizard’s crew found Joshua somewhat suspicious right from the start, as he’d boasted on multiple occasions that his history may come back to cause him trouble, now that he was famous all around the world as a cast member, with his face seen by millions in a very short time span.

Unbeknownst to Keith and his associates, Warner was already a criminal offender prior to joining them on the Bering Sea. He was at that time wanted for the Washington Mutual Bank robbery that took place on 19 October 200 – what allowed him to evade the authorities was that he remained unidentified.

After leaving the cast of the series in early 2009, Joshua seemingly felt that he was never going to be caught, and proceeded to push his luck further, robbing the Pacific Continental Bank on 3 April, and again only three weeks later. Like the previous one, this bank was also located in Eugene, Oregon. He was ultimately arrested in the course of a routine traffic stop on 31 December.

Detective Jeff Donaca of the Eugene Police Department stated ‘I watched the show too, I don’t think you can end up on national TV, make a spectacle of yourself, and not end up getting caught for three bank robberies.’

Warner was sentenced to 9.5 years behind bars in Oregon in 2010, while his accomplice Garret Wade Rice was ordered to serve 34 months. At the time of sentencing, Josh also had an outstanding debt to the state of $2,794 for the first robbery, and $8,304 for the other two.

The media lost all traces of him after the verdict, and in early 2023, he’s believed to be out of prison and possibly living under a new identity. Since almost no producer wants to deal with the prospect of saving face due to featuring an ex-convict in their project, it isn’t likely that he will ever again return to the TV screen.

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