Jeff Probst's French counterpart is embroiled in controversy following the death of a contestant during production of "Koh-Lanta," France's version of "Survivor." Denis Brogniart spoke in his first interview since the tragedy in an effort to counter accusations made against the show and its producers by the victim's family.
Gerald Babin, 25, died on the first day of filming of the latest season of the series. A preliminary autopsy report released last week stated that Babin suffered from previously undetected heart disease. The contestant reportedly collapsed following the first two challenges, though producers maintain that on-set medical personnel believed he was suffering from dehydration. Staff doctor Thierry Costa committed suicide April 1st after an anonymous source claimed that Babin's treatment was delayed so as not to interrupt filming.
"We have nothing to hide," Brogniart said of charges of wrongdoing against the show. "The program has nothing to do with what happened. It is the misfortune of a family and a young man who died from a heart condition. He could have died at home or in the weight room."
Babin's family has filed charges for assault without intention to kill and aggravated manslaughter for violations of health and safety, claiming Costa behaved strangely when the family went to Cambodia to retrieve Babin's body. "He began to talk while looking down and never looked us in the eyes. He was embarrassed. He stammered," said father Alex Babin. "I think he wanted to say something, but he couldn’t. He was held back by the production company."
Sister Alexandra Babin continued, stating that the doctor was "trembling, stammering and sweating," and that when Costa’s version of events did not line up with the host's, Costa was told: "You don’t remember."
The host refuted the family's version of the events, stating that, "[Costa] spoke calmly, and kindly, looking straight into their eyes,” said Brogniart. "He did not come with ready-made phrases like in the movies. Yes, sometimes I intervened to ask him to clarify a technical point."
Another point of contention between the family and producers is the alleged harsh treatment in attempting to retrieve the victim's body. "We had to beg, really beg, [Adventure Line Productions] and TF1 to send my in-laws and myself to Cambodia to take charge of the funeral," said Babin’s partner of seven years. "We had to get on hands and knees to get the production to pay for the tickets."
Brogniart again disputed these claims, "They had to insist on nothing. We quickly decided to take the family, paying for all expenses. We thought it would be his parents, sister and girlfriend," he said, adding that the extended family’s numbers climbed to eight. "More than half of them had no passport. In an hour and a half, TF1 got temporary passports for everyone."
Sounds like a tough situation that won't have a simple solution. Could the events on the French series and the numerous medical emergencies on the US version lead to changes in show?