Tom Sparks: How Did the Wipeout Contestant Die?

ABC’s ‘Wipeout‘ is a popular game show that involves contestants competing in an obstacle course, which was billed as the World’s largest. Created by Matt Kunitz and Scott Larsen, the reality series has given us several entertaining moments and euphoric moments for the winning contestants over the years. However, on the flip side, it has also seen the demise of one of the contestants, Tom Sparks, during the shooting of the third season.

Tom’s excitement of participating in the game show soon turned into grievance for him and his family when just a few weeks after being on the set of the show, Tom met his untimely and tragic demise, leaving his wife widowed and his family in a state of deep grief.

Who Was Tom Sparks?

Born around the mid-1970s, Tom Sparks was born and brought up by Bill Sparks and his mother, in California. Growing up in a seemingly loving home, he completed his school and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. After that, he studied further and graduated from the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, earning a master’s degree. Tom was a highly active person as he was known to be a runner who competed in a marathon sometime in 2009.

Tom used to work as a radio disc jockey in Sun Valley, Idaho, and had recently gotten married to his lovely girlfriend, Kate, on September 6, 2009, almost a month or so before he was selected to compete on ‘Wipeout.’ The newly married couple was called to compete on the show on a couples episode. Tom and Kate accepted the invite and were supposedly thrilled to be a part of the famous competition series and make an appearance on national television.

Tom Sparks: Overlooked Illness Resulted in His Tragic Demise

Tom and his wife Kate apparently went on the set of ‘Wipeout’ to compete in the physical challenges for the couples episode and complete the shooting for their part on October 19, 2009. Although the tasks at hand were bound to leave the pair out of breath for a while due to the physical exertion they took, Tom felt an unusual sense of shortness of breath as well as discomfort in his knee soon after competing in the first segment of an obstacle course.

When the 33-year-old contestant complained about his knee to the on-set medics, they also noticed that he was short of breath. Without wasting any time, Tom was taken to a local hospital near the set where they were filming. Sooner rather than later, he was then moved to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles where he underwent numerous brain surgeries. As per sources, he was diagnosed with Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome, also known as APS. It is a disease that causes extra and unnatural blood clots and is associated with several recurrent clotting events including heart attack and premature stroke.

Although ‘Wipeout’ contestants undergo medical examinations before getting cleared to compete on the show, the diagnosis of APS in the case of Tom Sparks went under the radar because it requires specialized blood tests. After some three weeks of being admitted to the hospital, Tom suffered a stroke probably caused by APS, his father Bill Sparks stated, and fell to his tragic demise. In a joint statement, ABC and Endemol offered their deepest condolences to the Sparks family and said, “This is a tragic loss and our thoughts are with them at this time.”

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