by Maria Gerbic
The lights dim and enchanting music begins to play when a curtain unfolds, revealing a fearless group of circus acrobats dangling in the air, suspended only by their hair. An announcer begins his narration, but is interrupted by screams of terror from the audience when the apparatus plunges to the ground along with the performers. Parents cover their children’s eyes when they realize what they witnessed. Panic ensues as staff and trainers rush to help the injured acrobats, while serene music continues to echo throughout the arena.
The accident occurred during a performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents LEGENDS℠ on Sunday, May 4 in Providence, Rhode Island. Eight of the 9 injured were part of the Medeiros Troupe, a group of acrobats that perform a choreographed routine 30 feet off the ground, hanging by their hair. One dancer on the ground was injured. Investigators determined that the cause of the malfunction was that the fastener suspending the performers snapped, dropping the umbrella-shaped apparatus supporting the performers to the floor. The piece of equipment, called a carabiner, is designed to hold over 10,000 lbs and was only holding 1,500 lbs during the show. Officials are examining the piece of metal to determine what caused it to break.
The list of 9 performers includes each member of the Medeiros Act, Viktoriya Medeiros, Widny Neves, Samantha Pitard, Viktorila Liakhova, Dayana Costa, Julissa Segrera, Stefany Neves and Svitlana Balanicheva. According to a press release from Tuesday, May 6, one performer has been released, four are in serious condition, and four are in good condition. Roiter Neves, father of 25 year old Widny Neves, said that the acrobats were aware of the dangers of their profession. “We work this way, and we take the risk. It’s like a lot of other professions, like race car drivers and gymnasts. . . . Usually it doesn’t happen, but sometimes, [it] happens.” Ringling Bros. Spokesman Stephen Payne describes the incident as unprecedented in the history of the show. Payne said that he was thankful, considering the magnitude of the fall, that the girls’ injuries were not much worse.
According to Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the Ringling Bros, performances will continue as scheduled this week, although the hair act will not be included in the show. The cause of the accident will be reviewed by the authorities and they will work to ensure that an incident like this will not happen again. As a precaution, the company will replace all carabiners on the unit and will continue to inspect each piece of equipment to secure the safety of their performers.
Sources: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/massachusetts/2014/05/05/circus-performers-remain-critical-condition-after-accident-that-left-hurt/Yt1ObvHpyoWPkQTgchBHLP/story.html, http://www.feldentertainment.com/PressRoom/DisplayPressRelease/71154/