Video: Nine Performers Seriously Injured When Circus Aerial Platform Collapses

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 4 2014 3:21 PM

Video: Nine Performers Seriously Injured When Ringling Bros. Circus Aerial Platform Collapses

A platform collapsed during an aerial stunt that was part of a circus performance in Rhode Island Sunday, sending eight acrobats tumbling 25 to 40 feet and injuring a dancer who was on the ground. A total of 15 to 20 performers were injured in the accident and nine were in critical condition, although none appear to have life-threatening injuries, reports the Providence Journal. The performers fell when the prop that holds performers by their hair apparently failed, reports CNN. A video posted on YouTube by an audience member shows how a curtain was removed to reveal the performers hanging from a large object. Right when the announcer said the performers were “suspended only by the …” the large apparatus holding them all together crashed to the ground. “Oh shit,” the announcer can be heard saying.

“Everybody’s conscious. Everybody’s doing well,” said Roman Garcia, general manager of Ringling’s Legends tour. “We ask everybody to pray for the girls.”

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This is how the Ringling Bros. describes the “larger-than-life act” known as the “hair hang” that “features not two, but eight female performers” from around the world:

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! 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.

A witness says the lights went out immediately after the fall. "Their necks went forward—it was awful," an audience member said, according to ABC News. “They kept the lights off so no children could see. When the lights went on, we could see them lying there. They started lowering the screens to cover it up.” Another witness tells the Providence Journal he and his family left shortly after the accident because they didn’t want their children to see the aftermath. “One of the performers was crying,” he said. “It looked pretty bad.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.