Eight performers plummeted to the ground after a platform collapsed during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at a circus performance in Providence, Rhode Island, on Sunday. Nine performers were seriously injured in the fall, including a dancer below. An unknown numbers of others suffered less critical injuries.
Many of those injured had suffered broken bones, and no spectators were hurt, said Stephen Pare, Providence Public Safety Commissioner.
The accident happened during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus’ 11 a.m. Legends show.
Stephen Payne, a spokesman for the parent company of Ringling Bros., stated that the accident took place during an act in which eight performers hang “like a human chandelier” using their hair.
He went on to say that the metal-frame apparatus from which they “were hanging came free from the metal truss it was connected to.”
Pare stated that the eight performers fell from between 25 to 35 feet. He said inspectors and officials haven’t yet determined the cause of the accident. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.
Payne said that all the performers had been doing “some variation of this act for some time,” though he wasn’t sure how long.
Sydney Bragg, a 14-year-old audience member, said, “It just went crashing down. Everyone was freaking out. We heard this huge clatter and then we just heard the girls scream.”
Rosa Viveiros, another audience member, stated that she saw the performers had fallen on top of at least one other performer on the ground. The acrobats remained still and didn’t get up.
“We thought it was part of the circus,” stated her husband, Joe.
A Ringling Bros. aerial performer had been killed in 2004 in St. Paul, Minnesota, when she was twirling 30 feet in the air on long scarves and the material gave way.