Horrifying circus accident sends performers to the hospital

Horrifying circus accident sends performers to the hospital

By Phyllis Stark. CREATED May 4, 2014

A horrifying accident that sent circus performers to the hospital Sunday morning was caught on video.

Seconds after a curtain drops revealing a suspended scaffolding filled with dangling aerialists, the platform breaks loose from its rigging, sending all of the performers crashing an estimated 30 feet onto the ring below. The accident happened May 4 during a Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus performance at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.

The video below showing the accident unfolding is disturbing. The performers were reportedly doing a stunt called the "human chandelier," which involved some of the women hanging by their hair.

As NBC News reports, “It's almost immediately clear that was not what was supposed to happen as screams are heard and other performers run to help. Eight acrobats fell and one dancer was injured on the floor below, according to a spokesman for [the] circus.”

Aletha Wood, who shot the video, tells NBC News, "I initially did not realize that it was an accident — the crowd kinda gasped, as people often do when people are doing death-defying things in front of them. [It] wasn't until eight to 10 seconds later [that people realized the tragedy] and then there was silence from 5,000 people."

Wood also said that clowns and other performers quickly came into the crowd to distract them while emergency service personnel treated the injured. Circus workers had almost immediately dimmed the interior lights following the accident.

Wood told NBC that “one female performer was especially motionless for a long time while the paramedics worked, and worried parents in the crowd spelled words like ‘d-e-a-d’ and ‘k-i-l-l-ed’ so as not to spook their little kids. But when the woman was finally lifted into the ambulance, she waved her hand, and the audience erupted.”

"The crowd went wild — wild like when someone wins a sporting event," she said.

A Ringling Bros. spokesman confirmed that nine performers were seriously injured and said Sunday night’s 7 p.m. show has been cancelled.

But Rhode Island Hospital told NBC News that it had a total of 11 patients from the incident, with one listed in critical condition.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare told NBC that officials and inspectors haven't yet determined what caused the accident.

Phyllis Stark

Phyllis Stark

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Phyllis Stark is the Digital Executive Producer - National Content for Scripps Media.