Germany in shock after prime-time TV accident
A contestant in one of Germany's most popular TV shows was in intensive care with serious spine injuries on Sunday after a stunt watched by millions of viewers went horribly wrong.
"Wetten, dass...?" ("You want a bet?") on public channel ZDF sees members of the public attempt daring feats, interspersed with celebrity chat, and regularly attracts some 10 million viewers.
But Samuel Koch's attempt to leap lengthways over a moving car wearing spring-loaded stilts -- he had already jumped over several others -- ended with the 23-year-old lying motionless face-down on the floor.
The prime-time Saturday evening show, a national institution, was abandoned for the first time in its 29-year history as Koch was rushed to hospital where he regained consciousness and was able to speak.
ZDF said on Sunday that Koch had suffered "serious spinal injuries" and had been put into an artificial coma after doctors operated on him for two and a half hours.
The show's host, Thomas Gottschalk, was interviewed live on the late news on national television, defending the decision to let Koch attempt his stunt.
"In 29 years we have had lots of dangerous bets, young people climbing up walls and one young man who jumped over a house on a skateboard, and the worst we have ever had is a broken leg," a solemn Gottschalk said.
"I ate with the young man (Koch) and I was reassured to see how much he was looking forward to the show, how motivated he was ... I am so sorry that it ended like this."
He added in another interview: "If I had had the impression that he wanted to do something that he wasn't capable of I would have forbidden him from taking part.
"But I didn't have this impression at any time."
The future of the show now appears uncertain, with critics saying that the stunts had become more and more dangerous over the years as ZDF has battled for viewers.
"Even if the contestant gets better, as hopefully he will, there will definitely be consequences from this accident," the influential Spiegel magazine said on its website.
The local Badische Zeitung daily quoted Koch as saying before the show that he had fallen "badly" twice in rehearsals on Thursday.
© 2010 AFP