CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — As hundreds of tearful friends and fans filed past two closed coffins Sunday, a slideshow of family photos showed the simple country life that "Buckwild" reality TV star Shain Gandee lived long before the cameras started rolling.
Set to country music were snapshots of the 21-year-old before his 15 minutes of televised fame: as a uniformed pee wee football player, in a tuxedo for prom, graduating from high school, kissing a bride and holding babies. In some, he wore hunting camouflage, holding a slain buck by its antlers and displaying a batch of gray squirrels.
Gandee, his 48-year-old uncle, David Gandee, and 27-year-old friend Donald Robert Myers were found dead April 1 in a sport utility vehicle that was partially submerged in a deep mud pit near Sissonville. They had been missing after being seen leaving a bar at 3 a.m.
Autopsies determined that all three died of carbon monoxide poisoning, possibly caused by the vehicle's tailpipe being submerged in mud. That could have allowed the invisible gas to fill the vehicle's cabin.
Shain, nicknamed "Gandee Candy" by fans, was a breakout star of the show that followed the antics of a group of young friends enjoying their wild country lifestyle. It was filmed last year, mostly around Sissonville and Charleston.
Gandee favored four-wheelers, pickups and SUVs over cell phones and computers, and "mudding," or off-road driving, was one of his favorite pastimes. It was no coincidence that some mourners arrived at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium in mud-splattered trucks.
Dreama and Charlie Frampton, who live a few doors down from Gandee, said he had been playing in the mud since he was 5.
"If it wasn't a four-wheel drive truck," Dreama said, "it was a four-wheeler or a dirt bike."
"He was dedicated to the sport," Charlie added. "That's all you can do out in the country."
Gandee's family asked mourners to wear camouflage or Gandee Candy T-shirts to the visitation and service because Shain didn't like to dress up. They planned a private service and burial later in the afternoon.
Ricky Sater, 23, said his friend would have loved the sea of camo that filled the auditorium.
"He probably would walk in there going, 'BUCKWILD!'" he said.
Sater has known Gandee since middle school and last saw him a week ago, when he came over to borrow a pin for a trailer hitch.
"He said, 'See ya, Rick!' and I said, 'See ya, drunk!" recalled Sater, who got the terrible news days later in a phone call.
"My sister told me about it, and it being April Fool's, I thought she was joking. But she wasn't," he said, swallowing hard. "I try to keep my emotions balled up, but I started breaking down about six hours later."
Shooting was under way on season two at the time of Gandee's death, but MTV spokesman Jake Urbanski said film crews were not with him over Easter weekend and hadn't filmed him since earlier that week.
MTV says it will be at least a few weeks before producers and cast members decide whether to continue. For now, the network said, everyone is focused on supporting Gandee's friends and family.
Katrina Burdette, 25, of Cross Lanes, didn't know Gandee but is friends with his cast mate, Ashley Whitt. Burdette has watched every episode and wants to see more.
"I think it should go on. Give them time to mourn and everything, but he'd want the show to go on," she said. "He wanted to be in the show and keep it going, so why not — in his memory — keep it going?"
MTV said the half-hour series in the old "Jersey Shore" time slot was pulling in an average of 3 million viewers per episode since its premiere and was the No. 1 original cable series on Thursday nights among 12- to 34-year-olds.
Others, like his neighbors the Framptons, say the show just won't be the same.
"They should just leave well enough alone," Charlie Frampton said.
But he won't object if MTV and the cast choose to continue. The show is bringing people to West Virginia, he said, and he rejects the notion that it portrays the state in a negative light.
"They're just showing what true country is," he said. "It's no worse than that 'Teen Mom.'"
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