Staff Doctor of French 'Survivor' Show Commits Suicide

Thierry Costa - H 2013

Suicide comes amid questions surrounding a contestant's death on set last week.

PARIS -- Thierry Costa, the 38-year-old staff doctor for French Survivor spin-off Koh-Lanta, committed suicide Monday in Cambodia, where the show had been filmed. Costa’s death comes 10 days after contestant Gerald Babin suffered a fatal heart attack on the first day of filming the series’ 16th season.

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Production company Adventure Line Productions (ALP) announced Costa’s death and responded to the news of his passing in a statement late Monday.

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"We have learned with dismay that Dr. Thierry Costa passed away in Cambodia today," said the statement.  Costa had been with the show for four seasons.  “His high level of professionalism and humanity towards participants and production teams has always been unanimously recognized.”

Babin, 25, died while en route to hospital after completing the first two contestant challenges of jumping from a boat and swimming to shore and competing in a tug-of-war on the beach. Babin complained of arm cramps and collapsed on the sand. He was treated on the scene before Costa ordered an emergency helicopter airlift, according to initial reports.

On Thursday, an anonymous source who identified themselves as a member of the production team said that the producers declined to give Babin immediate medical attention for up to nine minutes -- so as not to interrupt shooting -- and that he was initially taken from the scene to a local infirmary by boat and not by helicopter, which was considered “too costly.” The source said that Babin was finally transferred by to a hospital nearly two hours after his initial collapse.

Costa left a suicide note that said his reputation had been harmed by the accusations. “In recent days my name has been sullied in the media,” he wrote. 

Copies of the handwritten letter on hotel stationery were released by ALP and reprinted in the newspaper Le Parisien, which stated the family had approved the publication. In the letter Costa requested that it be released. 

“Unjust accusations and assumptions have been made against me,” he wrote.  He emphasized his love of medicine and said he had been devastated by the “false accusations.”

“I am sure I treated Gerald with respect as a patient and not as a contestant.”

As a result, Babin’s family announced Monday they will seek damages on the basis of “illegal conditions” and “breaches of health and safety,” according to lawyer Jeremie Assous. Assous is seeking all of the footage from ALP as evidence. French authorities have also opened a preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding his treatment and death, and might pursue manslaughter charges.