SISSONVILLE, W.Va. – Shain Gandee lived for the outdoors, often going on muddy, off-road thrill rides in the hills near his West Virginia home. A recent late-night escapade ended in tragedy for the MTV reality show cast member and two others.
The popular “BUCKWILD” cast member was found dead Monday inside a sport utility vehicle belonging to his family that was found partially submerged in a deep mud pit about a mile from his home near Sissonville, authorities said. Also inside were the bodies of his uncle and another man.
Kanawha County sheriff’s Cpl. B.D. Humphreys said the red-and-white 1984 Ford Bronco’s muffler was below the surface and that mud covered the passenger side. No foul play is suspected.
Authorities said the cause of the deaths was still under investigation and they refused to speculate on what happened. If the muffler was submerged and the engine kept running, it’s possible the cabin of the vehicle could have filled with fatal carbon monoxide from the exhaust.
Gandee, nicknamed “Gandee Candy” by fans, was a breakout star of the show that followed the antics of a group of young friends enjoying their wild country lifestyle. It was filmed last year, mostly around Sissonville and Charleston. Many of its rowdy exploits were his idea. In one episode, he turned a dump truck into a swimming pool.
Gandee was a true outdoorsman, shedding modern conveniences such as cellphones and computers for his proud redneck ways. He loved to hunt, ride all-terrain vehicles and go “mudding,” or off-road driving. He went mudding in the show’s first episode and ruined his pickup truck’s motor.
“Shain always rides with these kids in four-wheelers and trucks,” said a neighbor, Swanna Frampton, who had known him since he was a small child. “They were just out riding and having a good time.”
Frampton said the 21-year-old Gandee “loved to live and have fun. He was a great person. He did what (the show) wanted him to do, but he wasn’t like that. He was a real person. If you needed help, if (you) needed something, he would come help you no matter what.”
Humphreys said Gandee, his 48-year-old uncle, David Gandee, and 27-year-old Donald Robert Myers were last seen around 3 a.m. Sunday at a bar and they told people they were going driving off-road.
State police were getting ready to send out an aviation unit to search for the men when authorities received a call Monday morning. Humphreys said the SUV was found by one of Shain Gandee’s friends next to a trail used by four-wheel drive vehicles, about 15 miles outside of Charleston.
MTV issued a statement saying it was shocked and saddened to learn of its star’s death.