Former ‘Survivor’ Contestant, 26, Killed In Railroad Accident
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A former “Survivor” contestant was killed Tuesday in a work-related accident in Birmingham, Ala.
Caleb Bankston, 26, a contestant on “Survivor: Blood Vs. Water,” was crushed between two railroad cars.
Bankston was an engineer for the Alabama Warrior Railway. He was reportedly checking on something between the two train cars at the time of the accident.
He appeared on the show as a partner with his fiance, Colton Cumble.
“Blood Vs. Water” in 2013 pitted “Survivor” all-stars against loved ones, including spouses, siblings and romantic partners.
Bankston and Cumble were going to be married in October. One of Bankston’s final Facebook entries — made Tuesday — was a picture of the two playing piggyback.
Cumble, the contestant viewers and fellow “Survivor” contestants loved to hate, to the point that even host Jeff Probst couldn’t contain his dislike, walked off the series twice. Cumble relished being a villain. Bankston, meanwhile, was very popular with viewers and fellow “Survivor” folks.
Jeff Varner, who was a contestant on 2001’s “Survivor: Australian Outback,” told CBSLA: “Whenever you go through an experience like ‘Survivor,’ you automatically bond with people on a level that is deeper than you can explain with words. That’s especially true with your own cast. But when you see another cast go to the same thing, the bond is equally strong, even if you don’t know them personally. It truly is one large family that has a shared struggle. So, when one hurts, we all feel it.”
Varner, now a news anchor with CBS affiliate WNCT in Greenville, N.C., met Bankston and, like many other “Survivor” folks, liked him right away.
“I instantly found him to be the nicest, most genuine, friendliest person I’ve ever met. A real man who understood the meaning of loyalty and love. He was perhaps the nicest and kindest person to ever play this game. To learn someone as wonderful as that left this Earth in such a tragic way is extremely upsetting. But doubly so for a member of our own family. My heart breaks for his family, for his cast members, and for Colton.”
In his CBS bio, Cumble described his yin-yang relationship with Bankston: “He is my very best friend and probably is the one between the two of us who should’ve been on on ‘Survivor’ in the first place. While I’m a highly emotional person, Caleb is very logical. He keeps me calm in stressful situations.”
On his bio, Bankston predicted he would be popular among his fellow castaways, unlike his sometimes-caustic fiance. “I won’t have any enemies,” he said, “I’m very good with working with my hands, really good at figuring things out and problem solving.”
Bankston also said he jumped at the chance to be on the popular reality show and not just for the chance to win money.
“I wanted to help show America what love looks like because it doesn’t matter whether it is between two men, two women, or a man and woman. Love is love, and I love Colton,” he said.
The Federal Railroad Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the accident.