Days after Local 10 News anchor Todd Tongen was found dead in his Florida home, the station reported that the cause of death was suicide.
“We are shocked and saddened by the death of Todd Tongen, but we are choosing to remember how he lived,” WPLG President and CEO Bert Medina said in a statement on the news outlet’s website. “Todd was an incredibly talented journalist. He spent 30 years at WPLG telling the stories of the people in our community and giving so much of himself to this community. He was an incredible person. He lit up the room with his warm personality.”
It added: “As hard as it is, our news team is reporting on the circumstance of Todd’s death. We will report on this painful subject of suicide and mental health and perhaps we can help one person out there who is struggling. We miss Todd terribly. Our staff is suffering, but I commend them for how they’ve handled this situation with grace, strength, and professionalism.”
Anchor Todd Tongen Killed Himself as He Believed He Had Same Dementia That Killed His Mom: Brother https://t.co/K4coJtAimR
— People (@people) June 6, 2019
According to People magazine, citing his brother and the station, Tongen believed that he had Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), which is the same disease that killed his mother in 2017. LBD is also the same disease that actor Robin Williams had before his suicide in 2014.
“I’m convinced that he thought he had it,” Dr. Scott Tongen, his brother, was quoted by People as saying. “Whether there was conclusive evidence or not, I think he thought he had it, and that may have been enough.”
He added that he does not “really think he was thinking about ending his life, as far as I know,” adding that he was slated to go to Las Vegas and Canada.
“But there was clearly something that was bothering him,” he said. “He left some garbled messages that we haven’t seen yet, but there was a simple note that said he was lost and to forgive him.”
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“I’ve already skydived, bungee jumped, ridden on the back of a whale, flown with the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, so there’s not a lot left on my bucket list,” Tongen told the station in 2015. “Maybe, ah, crochet a sweater or, you know, I would love to, you know—travel would be big on my bucket list. I’d like to go to Bora Bora and I’d like to—I’d love to—be in another feature film. I’d like to be in a blockbuster film, even in the smallest role. I’d just like, you know, a big hit, so I could say, you know, take my boys to it, ‘there’s dad.’”
Tongen is survived by his wife, Karen, and their two sons. He began working for Local 10, or WPLG, in 1989.
Other details were not provided about his death.
If you are in an emergency in the United States or Canada, please call 911. You can phone the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1 800 273 8255. Youth can call the Kids Help Phone on 1800 668 6868.
In Australia, the suicide prevention telephone hotline at Lifeline is 13 11 14. You can also visit the Lifeline website at lifeline.org.au. Youth can contact the Kids Helpline by phoning 1800 551 800 or visiting headspace.org.au/yarn-safe
If you are in an emergency in India, call Befrienders India – National Association at +91 33 2474 4704.