PARIS (AP) — A well-known TV doctor overseeing the French “Survivor” reality show has committed suicide following the sudden death of a young contestant he had treated, France’s biggest TV station says.
Dr. Thierry Costa killed himself on location Monday on an island in Cambodia, the TF1 station said. Costa, 38, blamed the press for damaging his professional reputation in a handwritten suicide note that TF1 published on its website.
It was the second death in as many weeks to hit the prime-time “Koh-Lanta” show broadcast by TF1.
The first tragedy was a 25-year-old contestant, Gerald Babin, who died March 22 during the first day of filming for the show’s 2013 season. Babin went to Costa to get treated for mysterious cramps he had during the season’s first tropical challenge but died in a hospital soon after following a heart attack, according to TF1.
The network has not released any details about what the contestants were doing before Babin died but French media said he was engaged in a tug-of-war.
The French version of the show — which has broadcast 15 seasons to date — asks contenders to complete sometimes intense physical challenges to win food. Like in other countries, participants are gradually voted off as the season progresses.
An inquiry into possible “involuntary homicide” in Babin’s death was launched by the Creteil prosecutor’s office southeast of Paris and TF1 immediately cancelled the show’s season.
But controversy over Babin’s death grew. Anonymous comments appeared in French media accusing Costa, the on-air doctor, and Adventure Line Productions of negligence that contributed to Babin’s death — charges that all parties vehemently denied.
Costa’s suicide note addressed these allegations.
“These last few days my name has been smeared in the media. Unjust accusations and assumptions were uttered against me,” he wrote on notepaper from the hotel where the “Koh-Lanta” team was staying. “Having to rebuild this destroyed reputation seems unbearable to me, so this is my only possible choice.”
TF1 said it “shares the pain” of Costa’s family. Adventure Line Productions issued a statement expressing its “consternation” over the suicide.
“This tragic event must push those who irresponsibly accused and commented to come out and take responsibility,” the company said in a statement.
In his suicide note, Costa’s last wish was to be cremated in Cambodia so that his body never had to return to France.
The “Survivor” format has been adapted for numerous international versions— and this was not the first time the show has had a contestant die during filming. In 2009, a participant in the Bulgarian version suffered a fatal heart attack while filming on an island in the Philippines.
In another reality show tragedy this week, shooting in the U.S. for the second season of the MTV’s “BUCKWILD” has been suspended after a popular cast member was found dead Monday along with two others inside an SUV in West Virginia.
Shain Gandee, nicknamed “Gandee Candy” by fans, was found in a vehicle that was partially submerged in a mud pit about a mile from his home near Sissonville, authorities said. An autopsy completed Tuesday showed that the three men died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and their deaths have been ruled accidental. The tail pipe was submerged and it’s possible the gas could have filled the cabin because of the clogged exhaust pipe.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
Associated Press writer John Raby from Charleston, W.Va. contributed to this report