Stars From Survivor You Didn't Know Died

Since its conception, there have been hundreds of castaways who've appeared on the hit CBS reality show, "Survivor." These contenders were ready to risk it all to prove their endurance with the hope of becoming the "Sole Survivor." While the popular game series first debuted in 2000, it has since gone on to release an impressive 41 seasons, showcasing contestants of all ages who were willing to test themselves by tackling some really tough challenges. Sadly, as with any long-running program, some of these competitors have passed away since their time on the show.

Without a doubt, any fan of "Survivor" is sure to be disheartened by the news that their favorites are no longer around. Some, like Cliff Robinson, will not only be remembered for his time on the series but also for his work as a former NBA All-Star. Others, like the ultra-positive Sunday Burquest, will be missed by both fans and cast members who were touched by her incredible personality and paid tribute to her on social media accordingly. There's no question that these castaways have left their mark on the reality show, and while they may have passed on, these competitors won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Jennifer Lyon passed away due to stage three breast cancer

Former "Survivor: Palau" contestant Jennifer "Jenn" Lyon was known for her optimistic outlook on life. Lyon ultimately finished in fourth place overall. In 2010, Us Weekly reported that Lyon had sadly passed away from stage three breast cancer. Previously, Lyon told the magazine that she was "shocked" when she received her diagnosis, stating, "I felt fine that day; in fact, I've been healthy my entire life." Us Weekly also shared some of the heartfelt messages that former contestants had for Lyon. Johnny Fairplay said, "Jen was such a beautiful person. I wish life was as simple as 'Survivor' because I know for a fact there are 300 of us that would use every immunity idol and jury vote in the world to have her back."

Similarly, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "Survivor" host Jeff Probst paid tribute to Lyon, saying that he and the former contestant had formed a close friendship in the years leading up to her passing. Along with Lyon's sister, the two shared memories of the late former reality star and praised her spirit, with Probst saying, "Her wisdom about how to live a life with quality seemed to grow with each passing day. " Probst finished by sharing the knowledge he learned from Lyon, noting that she taught him to have open conversations about difficult topics like dying and death. At the time of her passing, Lyon was only 37 years old.

B.B. Andersen passed away due to brain cancer

Former "Survivor" contestant B.B. Andersen was one of the original castaways who appeared on the first season of the reality series, "Survivor: Borneo." After being voted out in the second episode, Andersen ended up being the second competitor sent home. According to The Kansas City Star, Andersen passed away in 2013 "after a courageous battle with brain cancer." The obituary described him as a "conservative champion" and "a lover of fine cigars, fine wine, close friends, and good political debate." He was 77 years old at the time of his death.

A separate article by the Daily Mail announcing Andersen's passing additionally provided the reactions from those who knew him on the reality series. The outlet recapped a since-deleted write-up from People in which "Survivor" host Jeff Probst shared a tribute to the late former contestant. "He was a powerful presence on the show and that zest for epic adventure was at the heart of everything he did." Similar responses were also given by Season 1's winner, Richard Hatch, who also offered his condolences to Andersen's family, and former contender Joel Klug, who praised Andersen's mental and physical strength.

Ashley Massaro passed away in 2019

Ashley Massaro appeared on "Survivor: China." After six days, she was ultimately voted off the reality series and was the second competitor to leave her season. Outside of the game show, Massaro had a short-lived professional wrestling career, according to Sportscasting. Massaro was on WWE from 2005 to 2008 and was considered a popular female figure. Eight years after leaving the WWE, Massaro testified that she was sexually assaulted while working for the company. She additionally stated that she had severe depression.

Later in 2019, People reported that Massaro had passed away at only 39 years old. The article stated that a cause of death for the former contestant had not been given; however, the previously mentioned Sportscasting write-up listed suicide as Massaro's cause of death. A separate piece on the former WWE star by People shared tributes to Massaro. Fellow "Survivor" competitor Peih Gee Law said Massaro "was such a fighter," adding, "She brought a really fun energy to camp life." Another castaway on Massaro's season, Leslie Nease, gave a similar message, saying that the late reality star was "more than her image" and "had a very soft and kind side."

Cliff Robinson died from complications from lymphoma

Former contestant Cliff Robinson was a castaway on "Survivor: Cagayan." According to Deadline, Robinson was the first NBA player to appear on the reality series. He eventually finished in 14th place during Season 28, which was themed "Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty." While the competitor did not make his sports background known to the other players, fellow contender Woo Hwang recognized the 6'10" basketball star and admitted to being a fan. In his career, Robinson was known for helping UConn win the 1988 NIT title, helping the Portland Trail Blazers reach the NBA finals in 1990 and 1992, and for winning the NBA Sixth Man Award for 1993-1994.

Sadly, in 2020, the University of Connecticut announced on Twitter that their former player had passed away, offering their condolences to Robinson's relatives. According to Entertainment Weekly, the former reality contestant's family later reported that Robinson's cause of death was due to complications from lymphoma. He was only 53 years old. Saddened by the news, Robin's former team also paid tribute to the late star on Twitter, saying, "The Trail Blazers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Trail Blazers great Cliff Robinson." A similar sentiment was conveyed by UConn's Huskies coach, Jim Calhoun. "He was our first great player ... he came from a difficult background in Buffalo, I watched him evolve as a man." His words were shared on social media by David Borges.

Sunday Burquest died after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis

Sunday Burquest was a contestant on "Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X" in 2016. According to Entertainment Weekly, Burquest appeared on the series after overcoming breast cancer in 2012. She finished in seventh place, making it all the way to day 35 before ultimately being voted off the show. In 2020, the former reality star was diagnosed with terminal esophageal and ovarian cancer. The outlet states that in a prior interview, Burquest said that her diagnoses came as a surprise. "I'm actively fighting the disease with chemo, which, in my doctor's words, 'will extend my window of time,' however being a person of faith, I still believe in miracles and am fully expecting one to come my way!"

In April, Burquest's daughter made a sad announcement on Instagram, letting her mother's followers know that the former "Survivor" competitor had passed on. In the heartfelt message, the younger Burquest thanked her mom repeatedly for all the wonderful things she had provided her with and for never giving up her fight. She ended her statement by saying, "Rest easy mom, I'll see you soon." On Twitter, "Survivor" host Jeff Probst paid tribute to Burquest, praising her smile and vibrant spirit. Podcasters Mike Bloom and Shannon Guss and "Inside Survivor” writer Martin Holmes shared similar posts on social media.

Rudy Boesch died due to complications from Alzheimer's disease

One of the original contestants, Rudy Boesch, appeared on the reality series' first season, "Survivor: Borneo." According to People, the former Navy Seal's upfront personality ended up making him a fan favorite who would later return for the series' 8th season, "Survivor: All-Stars." Boesch would eventually finish in third place in his first run, but his second time on the series would be short-lived, with Boesch being the second challenger voted off. The write-up states that the former competitor passed away in 2019 from complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 91 years old.

Season 1 winner Richard Hatch, with whom Boesch formed an alliance, expressed sorrow at his friend's passing, saying that he would be greatly missed and wished Boesch's family "peace" in their time of grief. Hatch, who was an openly gay contestant on the series, told the outlet that Boesch's partnership with him, as well as his treatment of the "Survivor: Borneo" victor, was "an example of honesty and open-mindedness." Similarly, on Twitter, Hatch further referenced the importance of their friendship on "Survivor" by saying, "You and I helped open minds and undermine predjudces [sic]. While your time here has passed, you will remain loved and iconic, dear friend!"

Angie Jakusz died from cancer

Former castaway Angie Jakusz was on "Survivor: Palau," the tenth season of the reality series. According to People, the Wisconsin native was working as a bartender and an artist when she appeared on "Survivor," and instantly became a target due to her appearance. Even so, Jakusz ended up impressing her fellow contenders and eventually finished the competition in 13th place. Season 10's Coby Archa tells the news source that Jakusz's presence on the reality series "broke the casting barrier." He explained his statement by saying, "Back in 2005 women weren't cast on 'Survivor' with dreads and tattoos."

Unfortunately, in January, the former contestant passed away at only 40 years old. Jakusz's obituary, which notes her "Survivor" nickname "No Fun Angie," called her an "incredibly passionate person" and mentioned a multitude of her hobbies which included painting, scuba diving, and traveling. Though her obituary didn't list her cause of death, Archa informed People that Jakusz"s family had told him three years prior that the adventurous contestant was undergoing treatment for cancer. He went on to reaffirm Jakusz's good qualities by conveying, "She wasn't into the fame, just the experience of 'Survivor.' She came, she played, and she went back to her life in New Orleans. She liked her life that way."

Caleb Bankston died after a terrible train accident

Caleb Bankston was a competitor on the "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" season in 2013. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Alabama-based contestant competed on the series with his fiancé, Colton Cumbie. While Bankston's partner was a returning contestant who clashed with some of his fellow contenders, Bankston was said to be popular with the other castaways and viewers. Bankston eventually finished in ninth place on the 27th season. In a previous interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the former reality star stated that he and Cumbie were planning to wed in Connecticut in October. He expressed excitement over the big day, and added that fall was the couple's "favorite time of year."

Sadly, in 2014, People reported that Bankston, who worked for the Alabama Warrior Railway in Birmingham, had died in a railway accident after a train he was on derailed. News of his death left fellow "Survivor" contestants shocked. Aras Baskauskas told the new source that Bankston was "one of the sweetest and most sincere humans I've ever come across." Similarly, Sabrina Thompson spoke about competing with the late contestant's partner, saying that Cumbie frequently praised Bankston and spoke about him constantly. Thompson says after meeting the charming Bankston, she understood why. In an interview with The Crimson White, Cumbie reflected on his loss, saying, "Caleb was my everything. We were the couple that my family would get so mad when we played dominoes because we cheated. We always played together."

Dan Kay's cause of death was not revealed to the public

Former contestant Dan Kay was a competitor on "Survivor: Gabon," and made it to eleventh place before his torch was snuffed out on Season 17. People stated that Kay was an attorney who previously practiced law in Boston and ultimately left his job after finding the harsh environment to be unfulfilling and depressing. After leaving, Kay went on to compete on the reality series, previously saying that he had an early "midlife crisis," but that the experience was ultimately a change for the better.

Sadly, Kay passed away in 2016 at 40 years old. His cause of death was not disclosed to the public. His obituary listed the former entertainment star's hobbies as physical activities, enjoying music, and going to his place of worship. The tribute added that Kay's "desire to be challenged and his quest for adventure led to his participation on the reality show, Survivor." The game show's host Jeff Probst expressed his grief over the news on Twitter with the message, "I just heard the very sad news about the sudden loss of Dan Kay of Survivor: Gabon. The Survivor family sends our love to Dan's family." Kay is survived by two children, his girlfriend, his sister, and his mother.