French ‘Survivor’ axed after contestant’s death

Filming of the French version of the hit reality TV show "Survivor" has been cancelled after a contestant died of a heart attack on a tropical Cambodian island on the first day.

French 'Survivor' axed after contestant's death
File photo of Koh Lanta island. Photo: Phil Weaver

French broadcaster TF1 said it had axed the 2013 season of the show, called "Koh Lanta", after 25-year-old Gerald Babin fell ill on Friday during filming on Koh Rong off Cambodia's southwestern coast.

Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the TV crew had planned to spend five months in the kingdom.

"The contestants have already gone home," he told AFP on Tuesday. "The family members have arrived in Cambodia to collect the body."

According to Adventure Line Productions, which was filming the show for TF1, Babin complained of cramps during one of the challenges set for contestants and received emergency medical care from the show's doctor.

It did not say exactly what he was doing at the time.

Babin was airlifted to hospital in nearby Sihanoukville but later died, according to Cambodian police, who said there were no suspicious circumstances.

"There will be no further investigation because he died from a heart attack," local deputy police chief Kol Phally said.

According to TF1 – one of France's top private national TV channels – Babin had undergone a medical examination during the show's selection process, like other contestants.

Koh Lanta – named after an island off Thailand's Andaman Coast  – drew more than seven million viewers for its previous series, which was the 15th since its launch in 2001.

It is based on the British show "Survivor" – which brings together contestants to fend for themselves in the wilderness and compete for prizes and money.

The original show has since been adapted for dozens of international versions, some of which have also been struck by tragedy in the past.

In 2009, a 53-year-old contestant on the Bulgarian version of the show died of a heart attack during filming in the Philippines, while the same year a 32-year-old participant on the Pakistani adaptation drowned in Thailand.

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Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

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Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.