An audience in Providence, Rhode Island, was horrified today when the acrobatic performance they were watching as part of the 11:00 a.m. showing of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Legends show, Blue Unit, suddenly turned from awe-inspiring to terrifying as a group of acrobats fell to the ground after the apparatus from which they were hanging collapsed without warning. The accident occurred approximately an hour and a half into the show, which was held at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
In the ill-fated maneuver, eight female acrobats were hanging by their hair, some at 25 feet and some at 40 feet, as part of a move called the “human chandelier” when the apparatus holding them suddenly snapped, causing the acrobats to plunge to the floor below, landing on at least one other performer.
The dancer on the ground and the eight suspended acrobats were rushed to nearby hospitals. In total, Rhode Island Hospital admitted 11 casualties of the accident and reports that one of them is in critical condition. Approximately 15 to 20 people were injured and treated at the scene.
Many audience members initially thought that the falling acrobats were a part of the show until they fell to the ground and were still. The lights at the center were quickly dimmed so that audience members could remove their children from the center without them seeing the aftermath of the accident. When the lights were turned back on, the injured were visible as they lay on the floor until the venue lowered screens to block the view of the scene.
The general manager of the Legends show, Roman Garcia, reported that all of the acrobats at the hospital were conscious and doing well. Providence, Rhode Island, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stated that the injuries at this point do not “appear to be life threatening, but they are serious injuries from that height and fall.”
The Legends show began their Providence appearances on Friday. Sunday’s later shows, scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., have been canceled and full refunds will be issued. The Blue Unit first began performing live in January, but the acrobats had been performing an older version of the act “for some time,” said the spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Stephen Payne, which is the company under which Ringling Bros. operates. According to Payne, the metal frame from which the acrobats were hanging by their hair broke away from the metal truss to which it was connected. At this point, it is not known why the apparatus failed.
An audience in Providence, Rhode Island, was horrified today when the acrobatic performance they were watching as part of the 11:00 a.m. showing of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Legends show, Blue Unit, suddenly turned from awe-inspiring to terrifying as a group of acrobats fell to the ground after the apparatus from which they were hanging collapsed without warning. aerialist, who was suspended 30 feet in the air by chiffon scarves, fell to the ground and was killed when the scarves suddenly gave way.
The director of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Larry Lepore, vows that an exhaustive investigation of the accident will be made until the cause of the mechanical failure is discovered, after which proper safety precautions will be taken before the show is allowed to hold another performance at the Rhode Island center.
By Jennifer Pfalz