Acrobats Injured In Fall During Rhode Island Circus Stunt

Eight performers were hanging by their hair between 25 and 40 feet in the air when a platform collapsed, sending them crashing to the ground.

Updated — May 5, 4:40 p.m. ET:

A platform collapsed during a circus performance on Sunday, sending eight female performers who were hanging from their hair plummeting 25 to 40 feet to the ground, the Associated Press reported.


A dancer below them was also injured in the fall, along with a few others who suffered less serious injuries.

Emergency personnel attend to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performers who were injured when the scaffolding they were performing from collapsed on May 4. Aletha Wood / Reuters

The accident happened during an act in which the performers hang “like a human chandelier” using their hair, according to Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros.


Payne said the “metal-frame apparatus from which the performers were hanging came free from the metal truss it was connected to,” the AP reported.

The accident occurred about 90 minutes into the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ Legends show at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. It was reported at about 11:45 a.m.

Paul Doughty, a member of the Providence Fire Department, said a single steel carabiner broke while holding eight aerial acrobats and an apparatus above the arena floor, according to Boston.com.

Performers hang during the hair-hanging stunt at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus on May 2. AP Photo/Frank Caprio

Sunday night, Providence’s Rhode Island Hospital admitted 11 patients, with one in critical condition, spokeswoman Jill Reuter said.


Roman Garcia, the show’s general manager, asked people to pray for the performers.

“Everybody’s doing fine, everybody’s at the hospital, everybody’s conscious, everybody’s doing pretty well,” he said at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center a few hours after the incident.

According to NBC News, two of the acrobats are still in critical condition, three are in serious condition, and three are stable, according to Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare.

An injured female performer is lifted onto a stretcher. AP Photo/Providence Journal, Bob Breidenbach

On the circus website, the hair-hanging stunt is described as a “larger-than-life act.”


“These ‘hairialists’ perform a combination of choreography and cut-ups including spinning, hanging from hoops, and rolling down wrapped silks, all while being suspended 35 feet in the air by their hair alone,” the website says. “In this hair-raising act, audiences will even see the weight of three girls held aloft by the locks of only one of these tangled beauties.”

First responders work at the center ring. AP Photo/Rose Viveiros

One witness, Sydney Bragg, 14, of North Kingstown, R.I., said the platform started to fall toward the arena’s rafters. At first she thought it was part of the act, she told the AP.


“It just went crashing down,” said Bragg. “Everyone was freaking out. We heard this huge clatter and then we just heard the girls scream.”

Another spectator, Rosa Viveiros of Seekonk, Mass., said that a curtain covered the act, but shortly after it was pulled away, the acrobats fell on top of the dancer below, a man whose face was bloodied by the accident.

The Dunkin’ Donuts Center canceled two shows scheduled for later in the day.

This video of the accident emerged shortly after it was first reported.

youtube.com

As they fall you can hear the announcer yell, “Shit.” A nearby spectator asks, “Are they supposed to fall like that?”

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