French 'Survivor' Death: Authorities Open Criminal Investigation
PARIS – After months of preliminary investigations, prosecutors have opened an official criminal investigation for manslaughter in the death of Koh-Lanta contestant Gerald Babin on March 22. The case will now be handed over to a judge who will determine both the official cause of death and decide whether to issue indictments for criminal liability to producers at Adventure Line Productions (ALP) or host Denis Brogniart surrounding the circumstances of the death.
The decision to open the criminal investigation comes after a lengthy preliminary investigation which included interviews with several witnesses including Brogniart and members of the crew. Investigators also seized footage from the filming.
Babin, 25, died on the first day of filming the French Survivor spinoff in Cambodia after suffering what was first diagnosed as dehydration. Following the first two challenges of the morning, Babin collapsed in the sand and complained of cramps. He was treated at a local infirmary before being transferred by airlift to a hospital, but suffered a series of cardiac arrests during the transfer. The autopsy listed his cause of death as “heart failure in dilated cardiomyopathy,” indicating an undetected pre-existing condition, though all contestants were said to have undergone extensive medical tests before filming began.
Accusations that Babin’s medical treatment was delayed were made in the magazine Closer shortly after his death, and anonymously attributed to sources close to the production. The sources said that Babin’s initial treatment was delayed several minutes so as not to interfere with filming and that he was first taken to the infirmary because an airlift transfer to a hospital was considered “too costly.” The sources said that the hospital transfer finally came nearly two hours after his initial collapse.
The show’s longtime staff physician, Thierry Costa, committed suicide April 1 in his hotel room following the allegations, saying that he could no longer live after his name had been “sullied” in the media. In his suicide note, Costa said the accusations were false and that he had treated Babin “as a patient and not as a contestant.”
Brogniart and ALP have maintained that Babin was given immediate medical treatment. In an interview on April 16, Brogniart denied that Babin’s treatment had been delayed because of shooting and said the production had nothing to do with his death.
ALP is still pursuing a defamation suit against Closer, and Babin’s family has filed a suit against ALP.
A flagship program of channel TF1 since its debut in 2001, Koh-Lanta averaged a 29.9 share in the 2012 season, with 7.4 million viewers. Following Babin’s death, the show was canceled for the season but the network has not made a decision on the series’ ultimate fate.