Reality show 'an accident waiting to happen'

By Charles De Olim Jan 25, 2006

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Were Fear Factor's safety standards up to scratch? That was the question a number of Mercury readers were asking after the images of the head injuries to Fear Factor contestant Lebo Babe.

As seen on Monday night's pre-recorded episode of the locally produced e.tv reality show, Babe received severe skin abrasions on her head and shoulders, as well as mild concussion, while trying to complete a Fear Factor challenge. After three weeks of recuperation, Babe has recovered from her injuries. A number of other contestants also received skin abrasions performing the task. The challenge - a 4x4 dune drag - involved pairs of contestants being dragged at speed across a desert-like surface, the object being to complete the lap and ensure automatic entry into the next round.

What appears to be at issue was the apparent lack of adequate protective clothing or protective headgear. According to a statement by e.tv, The Stunt Company, the company co-ordinating the stunts, "put their own team members through the course and based on this, both the course, the speed of the vehicle and the level of protective clothing was de-cided". Anthony Marais, a stuntman from Cape Town-based Stunt Network, said he believed adequate safety measures had been taken.

"There is no way that that company would have put them in harm's way. They are a very professional outfit. There is an element of validity behind them not giving the contestants head protection as it places additional weight on the head, making them more vulnerable to neck injuries," he said.

Marais said this type of stunt was a "bread-and-butter gag" for professionals. However, he did concede that this type of incident highlighted the importance of professionals performing the stunts and that shows like Fear Factor "were an accident waiting to happen".

Another contestant who was badly grazed in the challenge refused to go on record about her experience because she was concerned about the legal repercussions. In November last year, popular Thai pop singer Vaikoon Boonthanom, 22, died in a Fear Factor-type stunt gone wrong during an event named after the show at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre.

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