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Deadliest Catch's Captain Keith Colburn Open's Up About Tony Lara's Death: 'It Came as an Absolute Shock'

Deadliest Catch's Tony Lara Dead: Keith Colburn Opens Up
Tony Lara

08/11/2015 AT 05:55 PM EDT

When Keith Colburn got a phone call that longtime friend and fellow captain Tony Lara had died in his sleep, the Discovery star couldn't believe the news.

"It came as an absolute shock that he had passed away," Colburn tells PEOPLE of Lara's death on Saturday.

"I know Tony had some heart problems a couple of years back, but he didn't really talk about it much."

While the Deadliest Catch costars have been friends for more than 20 years, Lara also worked on Colburn's boat in the early 2000s as an engineer.

"He broke his arm that season," Colburn recalls. "It would have taken me five days to get him into town, and he wouldn't let me take him. He went down into the engine room and fabricated his own brace so he was able to get through. He basically saved the season for us."

But for those who knew Lara well, that's just the kind of guy he was.

"He was a really good guy all around, and he had wonderful character," adds Colburn. "If you ever needed help, he would be the first guy there to help you out."

And while he ran a tight ship on the Cornelia Marie, Lara – who also had his own freight and salvage company – was well liked by everyone.

"He was always a captain that was super easy to get along with. Very professional and people enjoyed his company."
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