Cirque du Soleil Performer Dies After Terrifying Fall

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 1 2013 1:52 PM

Cirque du Soleil Performer Dies After Terrifying Fall

A performer hangs at the bottom of a flying contraption in a scene from the new Cirque du Soleil show "Ka" at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada February 2, 2005.
A performer hangs at the bottom of a flying contraption in a scene from the new Cirque du Soleil show "Ka" at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada February 2, 2005.

Photo by STR New/Reuters

Cirque du Soleil, the popular circus show that combines creative, daring acrobatics with live music and colorfully trippy production, has taken its first victim: Sarah Guillot-Guyard, a performer at Cirque’s “Ka” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Guillot-Guyard, 31, snapped out of her harness while being lifted from the stage, falling nearly 50 feet into a pit outside the audience’s view. An eyewitness reports hearing “screaming, then groaning, and … a female artist crying from the stage.” The accident occurred during a June 29 performance.

Guillot-Guyard, who had two young children, is the first Cirque performer to die on the job, though certainly not the first one injured: Other performers have faced concussions and paralysis following slipups and technical difficulties. One of Cirque’s founders, Guy Laliberte, issued a poignant statement of regret on Sunday, and all performances of “Ka” have been canceled until further notice. The company’s website still proudly boasts that Cirque is safer than “football, hockey, soccer, basketball and gymnastics in the United States.”

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

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