On Sunday, May 4, 2014, tragedy struck during the 11 a.m. Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus show being held at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. An accident occurred as an aerial performance was about to get underway in which a support frame broke and sent eight Ringling Brothers circus acrobats crashing to the floor; shortly thereafter, they were all rushed to the hospital.
The circus accident occurred during the Human Chandelier, an acrobatic act that uses a hair-hang apparatus. Eight acrobats were suspended 25 to 35 feet in the air by nothing more than their hair. As the show began the curtain fell, revealing the eight women. They had just enough time to completed two moves of their routine before disaster struck. Something went wrong which caused the support frame to break, sending the eight acrobats crashing down.
When the performers fell there was no safety net to catch them, so they crashed violently against the floor, with the support structure crashing down on top of them. Multiple emergency medical units responded to the circus accident and care was given at the scene before the injured performers were transferred to the nearest hospital. All together, there were nine acrobats, one dancer, and one other performer injured, many of whom suffered broken bones. All 11 performers remain in the hospital, one of whom is listed in critical condition.
A representative for the circus said that the support apparatus responsible for suspending the acrobats in the air had been used 12 to 14 times per week since the show launched in January and there had been no problems until now. He went on to explain that the support structure was inspected before it was setup at each new show location. However, this time, something went horribly wrong, sending sent the performers to the hospital.
The Human Chandelier is a one-of-a-kind act that was created by husband and wife team Andre and Viktoria Medeiros. According to the Ringling Brothers website, Andre pays close attention to every detail regarding the equipment and performers for this act to ensure accidents such as this do not happen. At this time, it is not clear what caused the support frame to break loose.
There were 3,900 spectators in attendance at the time of the circus accident, many of whom started screaming and crying when the women and the support structure hit the floor. As a result of the tragedy, Providence Public Safety has set up a hotline that can be reached by calling 800-985-5990. They are encouraging anyone who witnessed the horrific accident and is having trouble coping to call for free counseling.
Following the circus accident that sent 11 Ringling Brothers performers to the hospital, all remaining shows for the day were cancelled and there has been no word as to when it will resume, if at all, in Providence, Rhode Island. In addition, the City of Providence, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal are working together to investigate the incident.
By Donna W. Martin