PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Longtime Local 10 News anchor and reporter Todd Tongen, a beloved member of the WPLG family for more than three decades, has died. He was 56.
Tongen's wife was out of town and unable to reach him, so she asked a friend to check on him. Police were called and found him Monday morning. A cause of death is not immediately known.
Tongen first brought his unique style and warm personality to Local 10 in December 1989.
For more than three decades, viewers have witnessed his indelible charm and wit, whether it was refereeing an arm-wrestling match between former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and billionaire Warren Buffett, interviewing various celebrities in the now-retired "10 Taxi" or training whales at the Miami Seaquarium.
Tongen began his broadcasting career in 1983 in his native Minnesota, first as a radio disc jockey on country radio station KMRS-AM. He then went on to work at an adult contemporary station in Grand Junction, Colorado, in 1984, before becoming a movie host and weatherman on KJCT-TV.
From 1986 to 1989, Tongen was a feature reporter and weatherman at KARK-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he once ate crawfish with future President Bill Clinton.
Tongen has held a variety of roles through the years since coming to Local 10, most recently sharing the weekend morning anchor desk opposite Neki Mohan.
But arguably his most memorable moments involved the many celebrities who were guests in his 1967 Checker taxi cab. Among the famous names to ride in the cab's backseat were comedians Dana Carvey and Joan Rivers, and actors David Cassidy, Vin Diesel, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Eva Mendez.
The 10 Taxi was so popular that Wyclef Jean even tried to buy it from him.
Tongen once joked to Local 10 that he appeared -- "didn't star" -- in three movies.
"Probably, one of them, you may have seen," he teased.
The Emmy Award-winning journalist, who got his start at Local 10 forecasting the South Florida weather, said his coverage of Hurricane Andrew remains his proudest professional achievement. His reporting also caught the attention of ABC News in 1993, when Tongen was featured on "Nightline."
Of course, his greatest personal achievement were being a father to his two sons, Tyler and Ryker, and a husband to Karen, his wife of many years.
"I've already skydived, bungee jumped, ridden on the back of a whale, flown with the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, so there's not a lot left on my bucket list," Tongen told Local 10 in 2015. "Maybe, ah, crochet a sweater or, you know, I would love to, you know -- travel would be big on my bucket list. I'd like to go to Bora Bora and I'd like to -- I'd love to -- be in another feature film. I'd like to be in a blockbuster film, even in the smallest role. I'd just like, you know, a big hit, so I could say, you know, take my boys to it, 'There's dad.'"
He will be dearly missed.