German Stuntman Crashes in Front of Thousands on Live Television

Video: Man injured on live German television
WATCH Game Show Contestant Injured on Live TV

A German man is recovering from life-threatening injuries after a stunt he was performing went terribly wrong in front of a live television audience of millions.

Samuel Koch, 23, is in a German hospital suffering from a broken neck and several blood clots near his brain, according to Walter Kehr, the spokesman for the ZDF network, which airs the program "Wetten, Dass?" or "I Bet That."

Koch is now in stable condition, according to The Associated Press, but is not yet known if he will be paralyzed from his injuries.

Koch was trying to catapult himself into a somersault over a car driven by his father. He was supposed to land on his feet but instead ended up face-down and motionless, shocking the live audience of 4,000 and the millions of viewers at home. Koch was wearing shoes that were meant to help him "jump like a kangeroo" during the stunt, according to Kehr.

"We don't know what happened," Kehr told ABC News. "During his somersault he must have touched the car with his head because he had a crash landing without any protection."

Though Koch was wearing a helmet during the stunt, video of the accident shows his body going limp in the air. Then he lands on his stomach without any attempt to brace himself from the fall.

"We're not quite sure if he was unconscious by the time he landed," said Kehr.

Before the accident, Koch had successfully jumped over two cars. He had failed on a third try, but had not been injured, Kehr said. Koch had pitched the stunt himself and had tried it "hundreds of times" without trouble until Saturday night's taping.

This is the most serious injury in the show's 29-year history, said Kehr, who recalled that a few years ago a contestant broke his leg on the program.

"At the moment, we hope he makes it because there are signs that he can make it, so we are hopeful he will be OK," said Kehr. "We are full of hope that he will recover and be as normal as he was before [the accident]."

The show's premise is based on contestants performing outrageous stunts while a panel of celebrities bet on whether they will succeed.

American pop star Justin Bieber was scheduled to appear on the program the night Koch was injured, and tweeted about the accident.

"Just want to let my people in Germany know I won't be on Wetten Dass tonight as an accident has taken place and we all don't think it is right to continue. Please pray for Samuel Koch & his family as we wait and hope for his health and safety," Bieber tweeted.

It was not immediately clear whether Bieber witnessed the accident firsthand. Bieber is expected to reschedule his performance on a future episode of "Wetten, Dass?"

"Germany I'm sorry we couldn't perform tonight but some things are more important than putting on a show. We will be back I promise. Thank u," wrote Bieber in a subsequent tweet.

Kehr said that while the next episode is scheduled to tape in February in Halle, Germany, the incident involving Koch will be reviewed and the show is unlikely to continue as is.

"So we will have to watch what we can do in the beginning when people give us proposals for their bet, we have to consider more carefully if there are any dangers," he said.

"The show will never be as it has been before because you can lose your bet but you cannot lose your sanity," said Kehr of the stunts like Koch's that may have been too risky.

The program's host, Thomas Gottschalk, told a local German newspapers that "ratings pressures" led to the accident, according to The Associated Press.

"I've got to reject accusations we included an irresponsible stunt in the show because of competitive pressures," said Gottschalk. "We've always had risky stunts -- from motorcycles to stunts on ski jumps. It's part of the show. Naturally we're going to have to look into whether that can continue like that."

Previous stunts on the show have included a man driving a four-wheel truck over eggs without breaking them and another man who tore ten Berlin phone books apart in less than three minutes.