It doesn’t seem right that a show where the cast members are generally in their 20s and 30s would have cast members who passed away, but The Challenge family has lost a few of its members over the years. Here’s what you need to know about each of them and how the current cast and crew remembered their friends and former co-stars.
Diem Brown, 34
Danielle Michelle “Diem” Brown’s story is certainly the most well known from the show because it played out on TV almost in real-time. She was introduced to The Challenge franchise in the 12th season, “Fresh Meat,” which was the first time a season included new people who were not alums of The Real World or Road Rules. It was during this season that she revealed she had just finished treatment for ovarian cancer, much to the surprise of the show’s cast and production crew. She told Glamour in 2005 that she was diagnosed right after being selected for the show, so before filming started, she had one of her ovaries, part of one of her fallopian tubes and several lymph nodes removed before embarking on her first Challenge season.
Brown went on to appear on seven more seasons of the show. Over the years, she was involved with Challenge veteran Chris “CT” Tamburello, a fan-favorite relationship.
In 2012, her cancer returned and she underwent another ovary removal and chemotherapy. It went into remission a year later and that was when she competed on her seventh season of The Challenge, “Rivals II.” But the cancer returned again in 2014. Brown chose to try to film “Battle of the Exes II,” but she collapsed on set in August of that year and was airlifted to a hospital. She died in November 2014 at the age of 34.
Before she died, she founded the company MedGift, a gift registry for patients suffering from various illnesses and their caretakers.
On the sixth anniversary of her death, Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio posted a photo of himself and Brown to Instagram, writing, “‘She is clothed in Strength and Dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future’ 31:25
“It’s hard to believe that today marks 6 years since we lost this amazing soul. This year to help honor Diem’s legacy, her charity @diemsmedgift is holding a virtual fundraiser. You can contribute by purchasing a #DiemStrong mask with all proceeds going to her non-profit patient registry. Miss you D.”
Danny Dias, 34
Diaz was first cast on Road Rules season 13 in 2004. He went on to appear on The Challenge: The Gauntlet 2. In 2017, he was found unresponsive in his Brooklyn, New York, apartment. Authorities told People at the time that he died from “complications of chronic substance abuse.” He did not have any lethal injuries but his death of natural causes was brought on by years of drug abuse, the medical examiner’s office said. He was 34.
“We are saddened by the news of Danny Dias’ passing,” an MTV spokesperson told People in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
“Our thoughts are with the Dias family during this difficult time. Danny was a beloved member of the Road Rules community,” added a spokesperson from Bunim/Murray Productions in a statement.
Ryan Knight, 28
This Real World: New Orleans 2010 alum appeared on three seasons of The Challenge: “Battle of the Seasons,” “Rivals II,” and “Battle of the Exes II.”
He died shortly after filming wrapped for “Battle of the Exes II.” A press release from the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police department said that the 28-year-old was “unconscious and not breathing” and that “lifesaving efforts by friends and the Kenosha Paramedics were unsuccessful.”
The autopsy later revealed that Knight died of an accidental overdose. He was found to have alcohol, methadone, tramadol, cocaine, and Xanax in his system when he died, according to TMZ.
When “Battle of the Exes II” aired, it was dedicated to Knight and Brown’s memories. They filmed that season together and then passed away within weeks of each other.
After Knight died, his Real World: New Orleans castmate Jemmye Carroll tweeted, “Words will never be enough to justify the connection we shared and the pain I will forever feel … I never knew how to save you.”
Michelle Parma, 27
This Road Rules: Europe alum and former Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders competed on one season of The Challenge, the fourth season back in 2001 that was called “Extreme Challenge.”
Tragically, in 2002, she and her cousin Mandie were killed in a car accident in Texas. According to MTV, a young man lost control of his car and crossed the median, striking Michelle’s Jeep head on. Both Michelle and Mandie died at the scene.
“Michelle had a spirit about her that just pulled you in,” said Jonathan Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim, creators and executive producers of Road Rules, said in a statement. “She was one of the nicest, most genuine people to ever be on one of our reality shows. We will all miss her terribly.”
The Challenge returns for its 36th season on Wednesday, December 9 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
READ NEXT: ‘Survivor’ Contestants Who Have Died