The 23-year-old student Samuel Koch was trying to jump over a series of moving cars while wearing spring stilts, but something caught on the fourth vehicle and he fell and lay motionless on the floor.
Hosts Thomas Gottschalk and Michelle Hunziker called for a doctor and the cameras panned away from the stage where the man was lying. The television feed was soon switched to repeats of musical acts which had previously appeared on the show, which regularly attracts millions of viewers across Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
After 25 minutes of musical repeats, Gottschalk announced that the show would not go on. Samuel Koch was being operated on in hospital and there was no detailed news on how he was.
“We will here and now break off the programme,” said Gottschalk. “Anything else would be wrong. We here at ZDF feel responsible to not make jolly when we are not.”
He said that Samuel Koch was conscious and could feel his legs, but that he was being operated on at the University Hospital in Dusseldorf.
Introducing the stunt, Gottschalk had told the audience that he had been very worried when watching rehearsals of Samuel Koch jumping over cars being driven towards him, according to Der Spiegel.
“I have never been so scared, that something would happen to this young man. I can only say, I hope all goes well,” he said.
The magazine speculated on Sunday that the stunts performed by members of the public on the show were becoming increasingly dangerous at least in part due to competition from Das Supertalent show which is scheduled at the same time on commercial station RTL.
Samuel Koch was jumping over successively bigger cars, and broke off the second jump, looking irritated and stressed, according to Der Spiegel. The third car he cleared, but the fourth, which was being driven by his father, was too much, he caught himself on it somehow and crashed to the floor.
It is the first time in 29 years that the show has been broken off. “It is the first time in my long, long career that such a thing has happened and we have carried out many dangerous stunts,” Gottschalk said later. “I have always said that would be the worst thing for me, if something happened to one of my candidates in a live show. I regret enormously that this has now happened.”