Saturday, October 30, 2010

Who Was Matt Hughes?

Ever since I wrote a post or two about the late Matt Hughes (from Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel), I have had a lot of visitors. I think many of you were stunned to learn he died in May and you're trying to ascertain precisely what happened. The big question on so many people's minds is: How and why did he die?

Sadly, my own research has indicated that Matt died due to complications encountered after a suicide attempt. To provide a little bit more information on who Matt Hughes was, I found an article from the Wichita Eagle and a blog post from KAKE-TV. Hopefully, this info will be helpful.
from the Wichita Eagle
Valley Center pair is part of Discovery's 'Storm Chasers' team
by Stan Finger

Opportunity can knock at the most unexpected times.

Just ask Brandon Ivey and Matt Hughes.

They were driving through a blizzard in Pratt County last March when fellow storm chaser Reed Timmer called them on the cell phone.

"Hey, I've got an opportunity for you," Timmer said.

The Discovery Channel program "Storm Chasers" needed someone who could forecast weather and help position other chasers during violent weather outbreaks for the new season of the cable show. Timmer had recommended the two friends from Valley Center.

"It was like a dream come true," Ivey said. "We started chasing (storms) practically from the moment we got our driver's licenses."

Footage from two months of chasing this spring will be the basis for the new season of "Storm Chasers," which debuts at 9 p.m. CDT Oct. 18 on the Discovery Channel.

They chased storms from mid-April to mid-June — a period that proved to be one of the quietest on record for Tornado Alley.

"It was like (finding) a needle in a haystack," Hughes said. "It was an extremely difficult season.

"We chased raindrops for three weeks straight."

Ivey, 29, and Hughes, 30, say their fascination with severe storms was born on the same day: April 26, 1991, when a tornado tore through Haysville, south Wichita, McConnell Air Force Base and Andover.

They were boys then, but they were still awed by the power of the storm...

from KAKE-TV
R.I.P. Matt
by Aaron Blaser

It was May 12th and I was typing away, preparing my next blog about how the city of Wichita really dodged a bullet on May 10th, when a tornado had its sights on the city. But on May 14th, everything changed.

One of our KAKEland StormChasers, Matt Hughes, was taken to the hospital after trying to take his life. This sentence is still hard to explain and even more difficult to express on a computer screen. Matt was in the hospital for several days in intensive care, there was a 24 hour vigil outside the waiting room, family, other chasers, business associates, etc.

I spent quite a bit of time bouncing from work to the hospital and back again...hoping for the best, comforting others, but several days later, after serious complications arose, I knew we were going to lose him.

I want to explain something right away, Matt was a young, vibrant, and resourceful man. One who embodies the passion everyone should have doing something they love. He would do anything for anyone, would try to make everyone happy, would try to do a good job for someone..and would never ask for anything in return.

What a lot of us didn't know was that he suffered from depression.

When Matt came to me in March of 2009 to tell me that him and his chase partner, Brandon, were picked to co-star in the Discovery Channel's hit show "Stormchasers" --I was excited! Matt was truly worried about his role for KAKE and that he'll not be able to do as much for us as he wanted to since he'll be away from the state a lot with the production crew. He then asked me what I thought about the show and whether he should do it. A veteran of several chasing shows myself, I told him to seize the opportunity because it may never happen again. He accepted the job and the rest is history.

For those who follow the show, Matt was the forecaster for Sean Casey's TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle)--he was responsible for placing Sean in front of tornadoes so he can capture IMAX quality footage for a future project. Matt did a fine job on the show, he was responsible for getting Sean his first legitimate close-up encounter with a tornado with his IMAX cameras. The producers of the show were so happy with Matt and Brandon that they signed up for a second season, of which principal shooting is wrapping up now.

The two of them this year were able to capture some amazing footage for the show, and for Sean. While the professional side of Matt was going fine, his personal life was nothing but.

I won't go into specifics here, but there was never any illegal activity, but an accumulation of issues at home were mounting, and he kept it to himself until the end...
Related post: To End It All, Suicide, and Thinking We Know

Addendum: Via The Storm Report:
A special memorial fund has been established to benefit Matt’s two sons, Hunter and Collin. Donations may be sent to the Matthew John Hughes Memorial Fund, c/o Intrust Bank, 142 North Ash, Valley Center, Kansas 67147.


  1. Many times people that live with the dark hours of depression are unknown to others. Most people would never know that I too have lived with that horrible monster called depression all of my life. My personality is gregarious and I have a good sense of humor and occasionally when I do reveal my illness..others are literally amazed. The general response is "You! I'd never have guessed it." Well I'm aware of that..because I work very hard to make sure most people don't have any idea of my struggle.

    I wonder if Matt Hughes was like this too? An intelligent man with a passion for storms. This sort of passion and activity would be just the thing to mask the darkness hiding just below the surface.

    It does appear however, that Matt Hughes was able to function and do what he loved the most. Apparently (although still unconfirmed publicly) some of his struggles became too heavy for him to bear...and he chose to leave this world.

    I am so sorry for this loss...sorry for his friends and family and the people who worked with him and loved him. They are undoubtedly the folks struggling now..for comfort and answers.

  2. All I see is every mistake I've ever made until one day, Mistake is all I can see... Mistake is all I think I am...

    Anorexia is being unable to see the truth about our bodies... is depression being unable to see the truth about who we are?

    Meds alone are not the answer. Every person deserves and is completely worthy of getting whatever competent help they may need to heal their minds, so they can reset their internal compasses to true-north.

    Aren't the people we love and care for worth a whole lot more than just a bottle of pills? :(

  3. Thank you for your honesty about what happened to Matt. As a fan of the show, I was shocked to see on this evening's episode that he had passed away and, of course, curiousity kicked in as to what happened. You post is the only one that has said what happened and it's very much appreciated. It's sad to me that everyone is so hush-hush about what he went through. Although it's a very difficult thing to deal with and leaves so many unanswered questions, I would hope his family and friends would know that those of us who appreciated his work would understand that it was a horrible, sad thing that happened but we aren't going to think less of him. I also hope that his friends and family can take this tragedy and make a positive out of it by educating others on depression and treatments for this hard to understand disease. My heart goes out to those he left behind and I hope they can find some comfort in knowing there were a lot of people who enjoyed watching Matt, and the rest of the crew, chase storms and bring some excitement into our lives while he was here. His presence will be missed.

  4. I was shocked and saddened like so many.
    I too have had depression all my 50 years. I was 28 when suicidal thoughts took over my thinking. Cymbalta is a life saver for me, but I still fight everyday to get out of bed. I have convinced myself that I can not do this to my family including my dog. But, when my life on earth is ending, I see no reason to suffer and will choose my exit.
    We have no say how we come into this world, we should have some say how we leave.
    I could see how Matt suffered on the screen. He was like me; always concerned how others view me. I could read in his eyes his sadness. I am just so glad he got his final intercept. Even depressed people can have Apex happenings.
    Thank you Rambling Taoist for your postings on this serious disease.
    Peace to all.

  5. I don't mean any disrespect, but the past 2 seasons me and my friends were watching, we thought he was homosexual. Gay people most of the time can pick up on the unintended signals of other gay people. The slang would be gaydar. I was shocked to find out tonight that he had children.

    Now, lots of gay men have children. They deny they are gay for decades and many times if they are outed before they are ready for it, they commit suicide because the whole family falls apart. I had a friend that went through exactly this.

    I'm really torn that he is gone. You could see his eyes light up when he was around tornados and I'm glad he got to be in one before he died.

  6. I wish the Discovery Channel would have told the rest of the story. I know in this day and age the media will shy away from this kind of issue, but the untold story would lead the viewers to the disease of depression. They have the ability to change lives - to spread the word - so that one day all of mankind understands the disease and will get help when needed. I feel for the loss of their son, husband and father and would not want it on TV, but if it saved one life, just one, it would make a difference.

  7. When Storm Chasers would not identify the cause of death, my first thought was suicide. My heart goes out to Matt's family and friends. What an agonizing never-ending emotional pain and deep sadness to live with everyday as a family member-loved one or a good friend. Bless Matt's heart - I know the people who loved him would have moved heaven and earth to save him, to take away the pain he was feeling inside, to do whatever they could to save his life and get him through his dark days. For others out there - please,please let loved ones, friends clearly know how you are feeling so they can do everything they can do to keep you here on earth. At least please give them a fighting chance to try.

  8. I'd like to thank everyone thus far who has left a heartfelt comment. Though we only knew Matt via a TV screen, it's rather obvious he touched each of us in some way. I imagine the grief we share over his death is but a tiny speck compared to those who knew him personally and loved him.

  9. There are a few more sentences on Aaron Blaser's blog post, RIP Matt Hughes at ...

    "His friends, and I, will never know what he was truly thinking, will never know if there was something we could've done, will never know if anything could've been done. I've spent several sleepless nights over the last few weeks playing Monday morning quarterback..trying to make sense of this, wishing things were different. I'm going to miss Matt and everything he stood for.

    Depression is a silent and debilitating can effect more than just the person suffering from it. It can destroy marriages, it can alter relationships, it changes lives.

    His funeral last week was attended by over 500 people. If only he would've seen all the people who care for him ..could things have ended differently?

    I wanted to wait until he was laid to rest, and for me to find the right words before I felt like blogging again. I also want to thank my employer, KAKE-TV, as they made a donation to a memorial fund set up for Matt's family at Intrust Bank.

    Matt-- I hope this was ok?"

    Like BDK said in the above comment, I also thought Matt might be gay, and I don't mean that as a criticism or insult because I don't have a problem with it. Whatever his orientation, this is just a very sad story.

  10. Yes, there indeed was a bit more to the story. Regular readers of TRT know that I don't like to show the whole text from a linked source. Instead I provide snippets denoted by ... to encourage them to visit the original source.

    Of course, the thousands of people who have visited over the past 12 hours or so are not aware of this idiosyncrasy of mine, so thanks for sharing the rest of the text. :)

    As to Matt's possible sexual orientation, I suppose anyone's guess is as good as any other. Like you wrote, though, it's a very sad situation, regardless.

  11. I noticed on the Dedication episode that Matt wasn't wearing a wedding ring. Blaser's blog post mentioned something about home life deteriorating and how depression can destroy marriages. All combined makes me wonder if he might have separated or about to separate, which could have pushed a depressed person over the edge.

  12. man i just cant believe after reading blog after blog that he died of a failed suicide. That was so not expected. Matt was an amazing guy to watch on show. He was sooo happy. I would have nver believed he was depressed. I will miss him and his smile. He is gone but never forgoten. His family and friends (especialy Sean) are in my prayers still to this day. It may have been 2 years but its like a life time for the family and friends. I hope he is at peace and his sons and wife too. It is tradgic. I thought after having kids and a wife he would not have done it but depression can really drive you off the edge!

  13. Just started to watch the show.. and reached this part. Gawddarnit, feel so horrible for Mat & family. I too am going through pretty rough times and fighting off depression and occasional thoughts on a regular basis. This turn of events really shed light on issue of depression.

  14. That episode was just broadcast on Disc. Sci in France, like half an hour ago. I am so sad to learn about Matt's passing and in which conditions... I really loved his shy smile, his intense gazes, the way he lit up when he was chasing a storm. He was also a very handsome little thing. I am gay and I've always felt that he was too, maybe that is relevant, maybe it isn't. Whatever tortured his soul into depression must have been horrible enough to crack that angel-like face and overall sweetness that emanated from him. I'm crying as I'm writing this, although I didn't even know him, but I guess we can all relate to someone who suffers. He died after he has found his graal, right there in the heart of the tornado, and we're all so lucky to have witnessed that magical moment. Rest in peace, little buddy.

  15. I am just hearing about this. I was going through some old yearbooks and looking up old acquaintances and friends from high school and was shocked to find this story.Matt was always a happy person growing up and always a showman. I used to fix his tie for him on game days in Jr high. I've thought about him often throughout the years. Depression is real. I suffer from it as well and have since childhood. I wish I had known he shared the struggle . Wish I had been able to help . I pray that his wife and kids are well. It's been almost five years now but the pain of losing a parent can shape the rest of your life especially when it happens so tragically and at such a young age.

  16. Now that we know Joel Taylor was gay, and it sounds like quite a few people thought the same about Matt Hughes...

    I wonder, is Reed Timmer also gay?


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