Deadliest Catch

Deadliest Catch: S19’s Emotional Funeral-At-Sea Was Very Hard For Johnathan Hillstrand

Deadliest Catch: S19's Emotional Funeral-At-Sea Was Very Hard For Johnathan Hillstrand

Johnathan Hillstrand black hat looking serious

“Deadliest Catch” might largely focus on the action and adventure of life on the Bering Sea, but sometimes, the fact that these crab fishermen are real individuals — not just reality TV personalities — is heavily spotlighted. A prime example comes in Season 19 when Johnathan Hillstrand finds the strength and courage to help deckhand Jesse McCollum scatter the ashes of his late father, Mike, from aboard the F/V Time Bandit.

For Hillstrand, this funeral-at-sea was extremely difficult given the fact that he considered Mike, an engineer on the Time Bandit who he knew from high school, his best friend. In fact, Mike’s ashes were on board the vessel for some time before the official farewell. Hillstrand says in Episode 7 (“Cold Hard World”), “I’ve just been putting it off because it’s so emotional for me.”


However, when his deckhand began experiencing restless nights as he slept beside the ashes, Hillstrand knew it was time to say goodbye, as difficult as it would be. Hillstrand says, “Jesse, I love your dad. He’s my best friend, this is hard to do. I’m sorry this took me this long. I haven’t had the courage to do it …”

Johnathan Hillstrand says emotional moments remind viewers that they’re not characters

Johnathan and Jesse talking

The loss of his high school best friend isn’t the only one that “Deadliest Catch” viewers have watched Johnathan Hillstrand grapple with. In 2010, he mourned the loss of Phil Harris, the fierce captain of the F/V Cornelia Marie, who suffered a stroke that eventually caused his demise at the age of 53. Rather than keep his final days private, Harris wanted the cameras to keep rolling, with audiences able to witness his tear-inducing last moments with family and friends.

Similar to the emotional funeral-at-sea for Mike McCollum, the gatherings around Harris’ hospital bed remind viewers that they’re seeing true emotion and heartache on their screens, not something that’s fabricated by producers. “We’re not characters. We’re real people,” Hillstrand said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Phil was an easy guy to love. He was always the coolest guy in the building — honest, hardworking, old-school handshake kind of guy. I really loved him.”




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