Argentina helicopter crash: The chequered history of deaths on reality TV

Deaths have dogged the genre

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The Dropped helicopter collision is the latest tragedy to hit the popular reality television genre - which faces fresh questions over the safety of participants in the pursuit of ratings after a long list of deaths.

Adventure Line Productions (ALP), the company which produced Dropped for French broadcaster TF1, is also responsible for Koh Lanta, the French version of castaway series Survivor, which suffered a fatality two years ago.

Gerard Babin, 25, died of a heart attack after complaining of chest pains on completing one of the on-screen challenges, on the first day of filming in Cambodia.

The series was cancelled and the programme’s on-site doctor committed suicide. The doctor, Thierry Costa, blamed the press for damaging his professional reputation following Babin’s death.

A 53-year-old contestant on Bulgaria’s version of Survivor died of a heart attack while filming an episode on an island in the Philippines in 2009.

In April 2013, Shain Gandee, 21, a star of MTV’s Buckwild reality TV show and two others were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in an SUV stuck in a mud pit in Sissonville, West Virginia.


The truck’s exhaust pipe had been submerged in mud, causing the gas to leak back into the car. MTV cancelled the show which followed the antics of young friends enjoying their wild country lifestyle.

In February 2013, cast member Michael Donatelli, 45, pilot David Gibbs, 59, and cameraman Darren Rydstrom, 46, were killed in a helicopter crash while filming a scene for an untitled military-themed show being produced for the Discovery Channel.

A 32-year-old contestant drowned during filming a Pakistani reality TV show in Bangkok in 2009. Saad Khan was swimming across a lake while wearing a 7kg backpack when he called out for help and then disappeared in a lake. Divers later recovered Khan's body.

Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was killed by the poisonous spine of a stringray as he swam with the creature while shooting a 2006 TV show on the Great Barrier Reef.

Safety rules were tightened on British television after the 1986 death of Michael Lush, who was killed during a rehearsal for a live bungee-jumping stunt from a 120 ft-high crane on the BBC1 series The Late, Late Breakfast Show.

Zodiak Media, the French company which owns ALP, has been negotiating to sell the Swedish format, in which two teams are left in the wild and tasked with finding their way back to civilisation, to more international broadcasters. ALP now faces an inquiry from the Paris prosecutor’s office over the Argentina crash.