French Reality TV Show Contestant Dies off Cambodian Coast

A 25-year-old Frenchman died Friday of a heart attack while taking part in the filming of a “Survivor”-style reality television show on Koh Rong, located about 30 km off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province, officials said.

Gerald Babin had been taking part in the television show “Koh-Lanta” for French channel TF1, according to French weekly news magazine Le Point. On the first day of filming on Friday, Gerald Babin had taken part in a tug of war with the other competitors when he was seized with violent cramps. He left the site of the shoot in a boat with the on-site doctor to go to a medical clinic on the mainland, joking with the others that he just needed to rest for a moment and would be back that evening.

In the boat, he had his first heart attack, but was revived by the doctor. At the same time, a helicopter permanently stationed at the production site in Sihanoukville was alerted and he was evacuated from the boat by air to the provincial referral hospital. During the 12-minute flight, he suffered a second heart attack and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital, according to Le Point.

“The Frenchman died of cardiac failure on Friday and his body was sent to us for examination,” said Sarath Vichea, head of the forensic police in Preah Si­hanouk province. “Then his body was sent to Phnom Penh’s Cal­mette Hospital that night by the French Embassy.”

The French Embassy did not respond Sunday to requests for comment.

According to daily newspaper Le Parisien, Gerald Babin was born in Martinique but had lived just outside of Paris. He was athletic and in good health according to a medical exam all the candidates had to go through before the show.

“Koh-Lanta”—a take-off of the hit U.S. series “Survivor”—was in its 16th season and is watched by about 7 million viewers in France, according to Agence France Presse (AFP). AFP quoted a TF1 executive as saying the Cambodia series of the program had been canceled in the wake of Gerald Babin’s death.

The Frenchman is not the first contestant to have died while on the reality show, according to AFP. In the Bulgarian version of the series, a 53-year-old contestant died of a heart attack in 2009 in the Philippines, and in the Pakistani pro­duction in 2009, a 32-year-old contestant died in Thailand.

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