As thousands of parents and children watched, eight performers dangling in the air at a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performance in Providence, R.I., fell to the ground Sunday when an apparatus collapsed during an aerial act.
The eight performers and a dancer on the stage below were seriously injured in the crash, city officials said. Many in the crowd at the packed family-friendly show at the Dunkin' Donuts Center gasped and screamed when the performers came tumbling down in a loud thud.
No spectators were injured in the crash, said Peter Gaynor, director of the Providence Emergency Management Agency. The performers suffered serious injuries, but they appeared to be non-life-threatening, he said.
The performers, all of whom are female, received immediate medical attention and were transported to a hospital, according to a statement from Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros.
The crash occurred at the 11 a.m. show during a performance known as the “hair hang act,” the company said. As part of the act, eight performers appear to hang by their hair from an apparatus in the air. The device was about 30 feet in the air, Gaynor said.
The show was suspended after the crash, the company said. Two performances scheduled for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. were canceled.
There were almost 4,000 people at the performance, many of them children, Gaynor said. Officials planned to make resources available to those who witnessed the harrowing crash.
A YouTube video of the accident showed the performers falling to the ground. An audience member could be heard saying, “Were they supposed to fall like that?”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is leading the investigation into the crash, with help from local officials, Gaynor said.