Local TV news anchor Todd Tongen found dead at age 56

WPLG-Channel 10 announced Monday the death of news anchor Todd Tongen, an on-air presence since 1989. Tongen was 56.

Tongen missed Sunday morning’s broadcast. In a story on its website, the station said his wife, Karen Tongen, who was out of town, couldn’t reach him. A request of a friend to check on him led to police finding him.

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The station said it didn’t know a cause of death.

The last several years, Tongen worked the weekend morning anchor desk with Neki Mohan, the natives of Minnesota and Trinidad seasoning each newscast with an easy playfulness. On Facebook and Twitter, Mohan posted several photos of her and Tongen deep diving into frivolity with, “This is how I will always remember Todd. My creative Soulmate and just a really great guy. Thanks to all of you who have reached out. Still in shock.”

WPLG Executive Sports Producer Dukie Lang tweeted, “Horrible day. Our Michael Putney said something so profound: “The cause of death is not yet known, the cause of grief is.” Absolutely gutted. Every newsroom needs personalities like Todd Tongen. He was so creative and so funny. I could see a story & know it was a Tongen.”

Various law enforcement agencies also used Twitter to express their sorrow. Among the first was the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department:

“The men and women of the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department extend their deepest condolences to the @WPLGLocal10 family as they try to understand and grieve the sudden loss of their friend. The PIO (Public Information Officer) community is especially struck, as Todd was always a supporter of our mission.”

After beginning his career in his native Minnesota, Tongen worked in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Little Rock, Arkansas, before coming to South Florida in 1989. Originally, Tongen reported the weather, and his station biography claims he’s proudest professionally for his Hurricane Andrew coverage. He also became known for his “10 Taxi” features in which he drove celebrities around in a 1967 Checker cab.

Before defending his 2016 title at the 2017 Jamaican Jerk Festival’s Publix Celebrity Quick Fire Challenge, he joked to the Miami Herald, “Ever since moving to South Florida ... I’ve had a love affair with Caribbean music, culture, and of course, the food. So I’ve been told that I am officially a ‘Jamaica-sotan!’ ”

He had bit parts in four movies from 1988 through 1990 and a cameo on the sitcom “Just Shoot Me.”

In addition to his wife, Tongen is survived by sons Tyler Tongen and Ryker Tongen.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.