TLC announced at the end of this week’s “Next Great Baker” episode that contestant and Iraq War veteran Sgt. Wesley Durden had died — not mentioning that it was reportedly of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The news came at the end of the episode in which Durden, 28, was eliminated as a contestant on the “Cake Boss” spin-off.
Just after the military cook was shown leaving the competition, a TLC in memoriam note revealed his death. TLC’s notice offered no further details, but the Jacksonville Daily News, a newspaper in Durden’s home state of North Carolina, said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Oct. 24.
TLC’s on-air note read: “In Memoriam, Wesley Durden 1982-2011, TLC extends its deepest condolences to Wesley’s family and friends.”
The network later released a statement saying, “TLC extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Sgt. Wesley Durden, who died Oct. 24. He will be warmly remembered by the cast and crew of ‘Next Great Baker.'”
A TLC rep tells TheWrap the network will not be “offering any comments beyond our statement.”
Ft. Bragg Army Sgt. Durden had been deployed twice to Iraq, in 2008 and 2009. He is survived by a wife and two children.
His death follows several other suicides by reality show contestants, most recently that of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” husband Russell Armstrong, who committed suicide by hanging himself in August. His mother later said that he had complained the show was ruining his marriage.
“Mom, they’re just going to crucify me this season,” his mother, John Ann Hotchkiss, recalled him telling her in an HLN interview. “I don’t know what to do. I’ll never survive it.”
Watch videos of Durden: