Double tragedy deals blow to French Survivor show

By John Lichfield

Thierry Costa and Gerald Babin. Photo / Supplied
Thierry Costa and Gerald Babin. Photo / Supplied

The French version of the reality television show Survivor has been hit by tragic real-life events.

A doctor working on location in Cambodia for the show, called Koh-Lanta, was reported to have taken his own life 10 days after a contestant died from a heart attack while filming the first episode of a new series.

Dr Thierry Costa, 38, left a note complaining that he felt "dirtied" by "accusations and unjust suppositions" in the French media that he and other members of the production had failed to do all in their power to help the first victim.

The 16th series of Koh-Lanta - in which contestants undergo endurance challenges in wild locations - was abandoned after the death of Gerald Babin, 25, last month. A judicial investigation into his possible manslaughter has begun in France.

Costa's note in his hotel room at Sokha Beach in Cambodia said that he had treated Babin "as a patient, not a contestant" but he felt he could no longer look people in the face in France.

A French website and a radio station, quoting anonymous witnesses and an anonymous email, have suggested that the Koh-Lanta production team reacted slowly because Babin's illness was initially regarded as good footage for the show.

The reports have also suggested that Babin was taken to hospital by boat, rather than plane, to save money. Koh-Lanta's producer, Adventure Line Productions, has threatened to sue for libel.

The production company has turned over film of the incident to French investigators and insisted that it proves safety procedures were respected.

Jeremie Assous, a lawyer representing Babin's family, said he was convinced his death could have been avoided.

Another witness came forward to deny that there had been any delays in treating Babin. Guillaime, 23, another contestant on the show, told RTL radio: "Gerald was shooting and suddenly felt weak. The doctor arrived very quickly. He did everything you would expect in a very professional way."

Koh-Lanta is one of the most popular programmes on French TV channel, TF1. The president of TF1, Nonce Paolini, said that media which had "peddled anonymous reports" should "examine their conscience" following Costa's suicide. Independent

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