Their deaths on July 3 are a tragedy, but one that has been shrouded in controversy, because the three were associated with High on Life. Members of the group travel to exotic locales and, at times, vault guardrails and ignore warning signs as they dive from cliffs and swing through canyons — always with cameras recording for YouTube and Instagram followers.
The local medical examiner is trying to determine whether they were filming just before going into the water.
Seven grief-stricken young men — one wearing a “High on Life” shirt, another with an arm in a brace — cried as one recited words written by Gamble about rejecting convention and leading a life worth living:
“Accept the fact that everything that makes up your world is there because you attracted it with your own thoughts. Realize that you can control your thoughts and emotions.”
Later, the speaker added: “The world has lost a great deal of light with their passing. They lived every single day to its fullest. They stood for positivity, courage, and living the best life that you can. And they shared and taught their values to millions of people worldwide.”
The video encouraged High on Life’s significant following to contribute to a GoFundMe that would “align with the values and aspirations of Ryker, Alexey and Megan — empowering others to pursue their passions and dreams, and to live life to the fullest.”
The GoFundMe had raised thousands, but underneath the video, the debate raged.
Some said they had been inspired by Gamble and others, and tried to heed the message of leading an unconventional life filled with adventure. But others said the exploits were pointless and dangerous vanity, putting young lives at risk for bragging rights and YouTube views.
Surely, critics argued, a person can live an inspired life and avoid mortal danger at the same time.
“Positivity and stepping out of your comfort zone means knowing not only you are risking your life but also you are throwing it away for followers ????” one person asked under the tearful memorial video. “I am sorry but it doesnt reasonate [sic] with someone who wants to live their lives at their fullest.”
Their antics have also landed them in prison. Last year, Gamble and Lyakh were sentenced to prison and banned from U.S. public lands for five years after they walked off the boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park to get dangerously close to a geothermal feature and biked off the roadway at Death Valley National Park in California, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Others questioned the timing of the GoFundMe campaign and wondered whether any donated money would just encourage more recklessness.
“Why . . . are y’all asking for money? ‘empowering others to pursue their passions and dreams, and to live life to the fullest’ just means giving people like you money to travel irresponsibly right?” one commenter said.
They are not the only people to be criticized for a life-ending grab at Internet fame.
Last summer, Pedro Ruiz III’s plan to become an Internet sensation involved a .50-caliber pistol pointed squarely at his chest and part of an encyclopedia that he convinced his girlfriend would stop the bullet.
It didn’t. He died at the scene on a June day in 2017 as two cameras recorded the deadly stunt in rural Minnesota, as The Washington Post’s Katie Mettler and Lindsey Bever wrote. His girlfriend pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in his death, which happened three months before the birth of their second child.
“I said, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it,’ ” Ruiz’s aunt, Claudia Ruiz, told her nephew when he shared his idea, according to Valley News Live. “Why are you going to use a gun? Why?”
His response, she said: “Because, we want more viewers.”