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Local 10 newscaster Todd Tongen’s death raises suicide prevention awareness

Channel 10 Anchor Todd Tongen found dead

Tongen's first years on Channel 10 were as a weatherman. His "10Taxi" segments, with him driving an eclectic array of passengers around in a 1967 Checker Cab, proved immensely popular.
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Tongen's first years on Channel 10 were as a weatherman. His "10Taxi" segments, with him driving an eclectic array of passengers around in a 1967 Checker Cab, proved immensely popular.

On Monday, the South Florida community was shocked to hear the news of Local 10 News reporter’s sudden death at the age of 56.

On Wednesday , WPLG announced the cause: 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. “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.“

Medina continued that it was “hard” to report on the circumstances surrounding the popular newsman’s untimely 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.”

Condolences have been pouring in since Tongen’s employer announced his passing. There was also an emotional outpouring on social media.

Zoo Miami spokesman Ron Magill posted a picture of his friend alongside iconic comedian Robin Williams, who killed himself in 2014 after years of crippling depression and health issues.

“As if losing you wasn’t bad enough, to now have the reason we lost you confirmed, makes it incomprehensible,” the animal expert wrote. “When I first heard what happened, I didn’t believe it but then I immediately thought of Robin Williams and the parallels between the two of you. Universally loved, incredibly talented, and fabulously hilarious. And, tragically, in some way, profoundly depressed. The difference is that I did not know Robin Williams but I knew and loved you.”

Magill ended his tribute with an appeal.

“For anyone reading this who may be going through a crisis and thinking there is no way out, PLEASE reach out to a friend or call 1-800-273-8255 for help. It’s never as bad as it may seem and there are people who love you and want to help.”

In another Facebook post, Magill told of how he had been friends with Tongen for 30 years and how a vacation with their spouses to South Africa in 2017 was one of his most memorable trips.

When Magill learned of Tongen’s death he said he felt physically ill and that it shook him to his core.

“It seemed like some type of horrible nightmare,” Magill wrote.

Local 10 also posted signs of suicide risks such as changes in eating and sleeping habits and excessive alcohol abuse. But sometimes there are no apparent outward changes at all.

“This is often what we see when people kill themselves: ‘But he seemed so happy. He seemed so fine.’” Dr. Daniel Bober, a psychiatrist at Memorial Healthcare, told the station. “Many times, people put on a happy face and play a role to make others think they’re OK, but they’re really suffering inside.”

His brother, Dr. Scott Tongen, told Local 10 though his death was unexpected, he said his brother believed he may have had the beginning signs of Lewy Body Dementia, a progressive disease that claimed their mother in 2017. It is also what comedian Williams had, according to the star’s wife.

Tongen, a native of Minnesota, is survived by his wife Karen and two sons, Tyler and Ryker.

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