Circus acrobats injured when apparatus fails in Rhode Island, video emerges

Posted at 1:20 PM, May 04, 2014

The YouTube video above appears to show the accident that injured several people during a circus performance. The fall occurs about 38 seconds into the video. WARNING: While the footage itself is not graphic, some viewers may find the video disturbing.

By Susanna Capelouto and Mark Morgenstein


(CNN) — Nine Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performers were among 11 people injured Sunday in Providence, Rhode Island, after an apparatus used in their act failed, circus spokesman Stephen Payne said.

Eight performers fell when the hair-hang apparatus — which holds performers by their hair — failed, Payne added. Another performer was injured on the ground, he said.

The performers were among 11 people hospitalized with injuries related to the accident, Rhode Island Hospital spokeswoman Jill Reuter told CNN. One of those people was listed in critical condition, Reuter said.

It was not immediately clear who the other two victims were.

Multiple emergency units responded to the accident at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Eyewitnesses told CNN affiliate WPRI that they saw acrobats up on a type of aerial scaffolding doing a “human chandelier” when a cable snapped.

“We thought that was a part of the performance,” Sean Bergeron, a 23-year-old Marine at the circus with his girlfriend, told CNN. “About 35 seconds afterwards, you were like, “No, that’s not!’ ”

People started screaming loudly and “going crazy,” Bergeron said.

Payne told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield the apparatus had been used for multiple performances each week since Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey launched its “Legends” show in February.

“Each and every time that we come to a new venue, all of the equipment that is used by this performer — this group of performers as well as other performers — is carefully inspected. We take the health and safety of our performers and our guests very seriously, and our company has a safety department that spends countless hours making sure that all of our equipment is indeed safe and effective for continued use,” he said.

The Medeiros Hair Hang Act is touted on the RIngling Bros. website as a “one-of-a-kind act … the brainchild of husband and wife team Andre and Viktoria Medeiros, [who] have devised and improved the mechanisms and methods making possible the myriad of maneuvers this troupe will perform for audiences.”

“It is Andre’s attention to every detail, even welding the three different rigs that the girls hang from, that keeps his troupe safe and sound each and every time the act is presented,” the website says.

Rhode Island Hospital has confirmed that each of the eight women named by RIngling Bros. as part of the act are in the hospital: Viktoriya Medeiros, Widny Neves, Samantha Pitard, Viktorila Liakhova, Dayana Costa, Julissa Segrera, Stefany Neves and Svitlana Balanicheva.

The circus and local authorities are investigating the incident together, Payne said.

“Legends” began a short Providence residency on Friday. The final five performances there were slated for 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday and 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday.

The early show ended with the accident, and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center tweeted around 3 p.m. that the two later Sunday shows had been canceled, with refunds available where patrons bought tickets or automatically via Ticketmaster.

Earlier, Payne had told CNN the status of the rest of the Providence shows was yet to be determined.

CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia, Nick Valencia, Adrienne Zulueta and Dominique Dodley contributed to this report

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