Famous YouTube Stars Who Sadly Died Far Too Young

YouTube is arguably social media's most intimate platform. The sheer quantity of time we spend with our favorite YouTubers, often ten minutes a stretch, has a quality of its own. We often end up feeling like we know them. No matter how big they may get, the potential millions of dollars they might make, or even the sometimes headline-making feuds they might get involved in, unlike some of Hollywood's brightest stars, YouTubers aren't locked away in glamorously appointed Instagram mosaics or hiding behind face-altering filters. Nor are they known to rage-Tweet at followers with a fiery political vengeance.

For the most part, YouTube stars show us their true selves, flaws and all — often in high-definition. They let us in on their process ... occasionally at painful length. Basically, our favorite YouTubers are not idols or even considered to be hashtag goals: they're our friends. And when a friend dies, the feeling of loss is immense. These famous YouTube stars were friends to millions and were gone far too soon and far too young.

Emily Hartridge

English YouTuber Emily Hartridge ran a modest-sized channel, but her knack for clickable video titles let her rack up tens of millions of views with comical entries like "You should have sex with your ex....10 Reasons Why" and "Boobs are AWESOME....10 Reasons Why." This SEO queen started posting on YouTube way back in the primordial standard-definition days of 2007, and fans got to see her blossom from wandering twenty-something vlogger to confessional comedian, giving cheeky tips on topics like how to get a hot, younger boyfriend – if that's your cup of tea.

Sadly, tragedy struck in July 2019, when Hartridge was killed in London after being struck by a truck while driving her electric scooter. This was the first such fatality in Britain involving this type of e-scooter, according to The Guardian. She was only 35. 

Hartridge's shocked fans, expecting her normal content to be uploaded to YouTube the following day, discovered the terrible news in an abrupt announcement via Instagram, which read in part, "Many of you were expecting to see Emily today ... We all loved her to bits and she will never be forgotten. She has touched so many lives it's hard to imagine things without her."


Brooklyn-born Etika (real name Desmond Amofah) was a hugely charismatic YouTube gamer best known for his love of Nintendo. He might've also been YouTube's most fit professional sitter, as evidenced whenever he comically ripped his shirt off for livestream fans. Etika also boasted what was arguably YouTube's best flattop hair and the most charmingly over-the-top nerdgasm reactions to game announcements on his favorite retro platform.

In late June 2019, Etika's New York State driver's license, cell phone, and clothing were found on the Manhattan Bridge. The YouTuber had vanished after leaving behind a cryptic video missive, saying in the since-deleted clip, "I hope that my story maybe helps to make YouTube a better place in the future where people know boundaries and limits and how far things should go." Etika went on to express deep guilt in the nearly eight-minute monologue. His body was later found in the East River, and authorities eventually ruled his death  suicide by drowning, per the New York Post. He was just 29 years old. 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Rich Piana

Rich Piana had those alien gains and the bodybuilder-turned-YouTube star found a second passion documenting his love of the iron cathedral for his over one million subscribers. But bodybuilders also often suffer from a type of muscle dysmorphia aptly nicknamed bigorexia

In 2015, Piana revealed to Jerry Ward of Bios3training that he'd struggled with bigorexia since his mom got him a He-Man doll at the age of six: "I constantly wanted to be bigger my whole life ... You know, we look in the mirror and we look small, and we see a picture of us and [we're] like, 'Oh s**t ... I didn't realize I was that big.'"

Piana was genuinely gigantic as the 6'1" influencer's body weight approached 300 lbs. For reference, he was about 50 pounds bigger than the unanimous best bodybuilder in the world the year he died — and that can be very dangerous. Famously open about his use of human growth hormone and traditional anabolic steroids, Piana suddenly collapsed while getting a haircut near his Florida home in August 2017, and passed away two weeks later after being placed in a medically-induced coma, per People. While TMZ reported that police had found 20 bottles of steroids in his home, this was not affirmatively determined as Piana's cause of death. Upon autopsy, the coroner found significant evidence of heart disease: hardening of the arteries and an enlarged heart, which, according to Men's Health, is common in male athletes abusing steroids. Piana was 46.

Steve Cash

Talking Kitty Cat creator Steve Cash had a simple idea: talking cats are funny. In 2008, Cash first cast his kitten, Sylvester, as a grumpy roommate, and did all the voiceovers himself. The result was a viral video with 10 million views — and thus, a YouTube sensation was born. Cash's channel eventually grew to over 2.5 million subscribers as he added other feline friends to the series, each perfectly capturing the quiet menace of your house cat's expressions that say both: "I love you," and, "I will absolutely hunt you down." 

In April 2020, fans woke up to a startling Facebook message from Cash's wife, Celia DeCosta, which read in part, "This is so hard ... I just lost my best friend, my sidekick, my lover, my mentor, my absolute everything ... I'm so sad to say, my husband, Steve Cash took his own life this morning." He was 40. Idaho police had responded to an early morning call at their home and found Cash dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to People. Per E! News, Cash had opened up about his mental health the previous September, describing himself as bipolar in response to a fan and noting ominously, "I'm on a manic up right now. When I go back into depression I'll vacate everything [on social media]."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

The King of Random

Grant Thompson, better known as The King of Random, was an absolute DIY master. His YouTube channel is like home economics on giddy steroids. Since joining the site in 2010, his absurdist tutorials have ran the gauntlet from how-to videos on making LEGO gummy candy to opening a coconut without the use of tools. Thompson's sensibility was life-hacker meets lo-tech tinkerer, and its perhaps his succinct tutorial on creating a $3 laser-guided blowgun — the totally unnecessary weapon you didn't know you needed — that summed up his style best. The YouTube community loved it, rewarding him with over 12 million subscribers and nearly three billion views.

In July 2019, Utah authorities got a call about an "overdue" pilot, according to The New York Times. The adventurous YouTuber had been out paragliding, which is sort of like hang-gliding but with a giant parachute, and a helicopter search ensued. Using GPS coordinates from his phone, authorities eventually located Thompson's body. Also recovered was a video that purportedly contains footage of the crash, which Thompson's family has not released. It appears that a change in wind caused Thompson's chute to collapse and his backup chute didn't deploy in time. 

A simple message to his devoted followers appeared on Instagram, fittingly asking fans to "do a random act of love or kindness today in honor of The King of Random." For those needing one more ride with the King, his channel also created a tribute video. Thompson was 38.

Christina Grimmie

Christina Grimmie became a star on The Voice, but it was on YouTube that the singer first found her range. Beginning in 2009, Grimmie dabbled in a bit of everything from piano covers of Jason Mraz songs to some very pre-TikTok lip-syncing to blowout tutorials with her patented punk rock pompadour. But it wasn't really until her powerful Miley Cyrus "Wrecking Ball" audition on The Voice in 2015 that her channel blew up to nearly four million subscribers. Grimmie went on to take third place in the contest and immediately upgraded her YouTube presence from DIY to dynamic. 

However, tragedy struck in June 2016 following a performance in Orlando, Fla. After the show, Grimmie was signing autographs for fans, when a 27-year-old man later identified as Kevin Loibl approached her, and the music star — as was her habit — opened her arms to embrace him. He then shot Grimmie to death, before her brother tackled him to the ground. Per CNN, the killer was described by coworkers as being "socially awkward" and "detached," as well as having an "unrealistic infatuation with Christina Grimmie," following her social media intently and watching hours upon hours of her YouTube performances. After the murder, Loibl took his own life, according to TMZ.

Grimmie was 22 at the time of her death. Her family, friends, and fans have continued to hold an annual Gala hosted by the Christina Grimmie Foundation, which supports families devastated by gun violence.

Stevie Ryan

Stevie Ryan got her start on YouTube doing pop culture sketches and impersonations of celebrity characters, like her take on Miley Cyrus' Disney alter ego, Hannah Montana — "Hannah Fontana." Her most popular video has remained a spoof of The Maury Show called "Maurly," which seems to have completely anticipated the Dr. Phil-created "Cash Me Outside Girl" phenomenon. Ryan's channel was amateurish and modest with less than 100,000 subscribers, but like her fans, VH1 loved her brand of pop-culture parody so much that her sketch comedy series, StevieTV, was born in 2012. The YouTuber went on to thrive while mocking reality shows like Toddlers & Tiaras.

Sadly, Ryan also battled mental health issues, and in June 2017, announced that she'd stopped taking her antidepressants, according to Mercury News. Around that time, she was also grieving the loss of her grandfather, and admitted on her Mentally Chill podcast (via Us Weekly), "I'm just worried that this is going to send me into a deeper depression." Shortly after Ryan shared her last social media post — a tribute to her grandfather on Twitter — her body was found in her Los Angeles home. Her death was later ruled a suicide by hanging. She was 33. 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Gregg Plitt

Gregg Plitt was a West Point Graduate, a former Army Ranger, and, of course, absolutely jacked to the gills. This YouTuber was dude-bro body goals in every respect, so much so that he landed a cover shoot for Men's Health in 2014, and eventually joined the Bravo show, Work Out. Plitt also turned his gains into subscribers with motivational YouTube montages, setting the stage for his larger life-coaching/personal fitness empire. Unlike other self-improvement fitness channels, Plitt's YouTube-style was more about setting an inspiring example than getting into the nitty-gritty of his actual routines or diets.

In January 2015, the handsome vlogger was shooting without a permit in Burbank, Calif. while running on train tracks, when he was tragically struck and killed by a passenger locomotive. A spokesman for the rail service called the death "very preventable," as unreleased footage from a surveillance cam mounted atop the oncoming train captured the entire accident. "The conductor can see somebody on the tracks a distance away," Burbank police officer Joshua Kendrick told the Associated Press (via The Washington Post). The conductor hit the breaks and laid on the horn, but he added, "For one reason or another, unfortunately, Mr. Plitt did not get off the tracks." 

However, according to sources cited by TMZ, Plitt was actually intentionally racing the train while filming an ad for a sports drink and was only struck when he tripped and fell onto the tracks. Plitt was 37.

Dillon the Hacker

Dillon Henderson — better-known by his YouTuber nom de plume, Dillon the Hacker – was one of the most gratifyingly goofy content creator you could find. In 2014, he rose to prominence by trolling one of YouTube's biggest stars, Pewdiepie, claiming he stole his idol's girlfriend and eventually declaring victory in their facetious feud. Pewdiepie was so delighted by Henderson's antics that the duo leaned into the hacker gimmick in this hilarious Mr. Robot-inspired collab video

Pewdiepie himself was one of the only notable sources for Henderson's 2019 death, featuring a tribute in his 2019 rewind video and writing in a since-deleted tweet (via Metro), "Dillon the hacker was such a talented young comedian. He successfully trolled my entire audience at one point. Such sad news to hear about his passing. My condolences to his family and close ones. RIP Dillon."

The actual circumstances around Henderson's demise have remained mysterious, with several outlets unable to even confirm his death or the exact date. His last online activity was an innocuous tweet about Boy Meets World in late July 2019. However, his childhood best friend and fellow YouTuber, BG Kumbi, later confirmed his passing in an emotional video the following month. Assuring fans it was absolutely not a joke, BG Kumbi signed off with a solemn, "I'm gonna miss [him] like you wouldn't believe. Goodbye, my friend." Dillon the Hacker was only 20 years old.

Tai Couture

LBGTQ influencer Tai Couture, born Tyree Williams, built a modest channel he called a "church" by giving off-the-cuff takes on everything from Jussie Smollett to his own ordinary relationship struggles. Williams was always transparent with his small but dedicated subscriber base, and not just because most of his wardrobe was mesh.

In August 2018, Williams revealed that the demise of his long-term relationship was related to his battles with depression and suicidal ideation. The YouTuber also spoke at length about his struggles after being involved in a serious car accident in 2015, which left him in critical condition and briefly unable to walk. He was not at fault, but admitted that the "emotional torment" of a long recovery, which included four further hospitalizations from complications, took a serious toll on his mental health. 

After the news of a 15-year-old boy dying by suicide after being bullied for being gay broke the following year. Williams shared a Facebook post about the tragedy, which revealed his own suicide attempt, writing in part, "Although bullying wasn't my trigger I know firsthand how it feels to be desperate for the hurt to end." Queerty reports that Williams took his own life seven months later. In classic Tai Couture style, his family shared a video of his funeral, which felt more like a celebration of his life. 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.


TotalBiscuit (real name John Bain) was an English gamer and games critic who took to YouTube in 2010 after being "laid off from his job at a financial-services firm," per Variety. Bain racked up over two million subscribers, endearing himself to fans with in-depth game reviews and practical game-related advice, like "Should you preorder video games?" He also reveled in scathing take-downs of tired gaming genres, including his take on "Modern Military Shooters in a nutshell." All of this was narrated in his charmingly British baritone, bringing the proceedings a certain bougie gravitas.

However, tragedy struck in 2014: Bain was diagnosed with bowel cancer. A year later, he told fans his illness had metastasized, hinting his condition was likely terminal. However, Bain bravely vowed to simply keep a classically British stiff upper lip and continue his work as a gaming content creator without further comment, while enduring a long course of chemotherapy. Sadly, he succumbed to the disease in 2018 at the age of 33. Bain's wife, Genna, made the heart-wrenching announcement on Twitter, sharing a poem by Francisco de Quevedo that ended with, "They will be dust but will be dust in love."