A death-defying stunt at a Barnum and Bailey Circus went horrifically wrong for eight acrobats performing an aerial hair-hanging stunt called the human chandelier when a platform supporting the acrobats collapsed, sending them plunging to the ground.
The tragedy occurred on Sunday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.
The eight female acrobats who fell – from 25 to 40 feet – suffered serious injuries. A dancer who was on the ground was also seriously injured. One of these nine injured performers remains in critical condition.
Eleven other people also suffered minor injuries as a result of the circus catastrophe.
A spokesman for the parent company of Ringling Bros., Feld Entertainment, explained that the accident occurred because the big metal contraption holding the acrobats by the hair came apart, more or less at the seams.
Audience member Joe Viveiros of Seekonk, Massachusetts, said the crowd had no idea what to make of what they had seen.
“We thought it was part of the circus,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.
Rescue units from three area fire departments arrived on the scene to treat injury victims and transport them to local hospitals.
The show did not go on after the mishap. Two later Sunday shows were also immediately canceled.
“Everybody’s conscious. Everybody’s doing well,” Roman Garcia, the Barnum and Bailey touring circus general manager said at a hastily arranged news conference. “We ask everybody to pray for the girls.”