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First responders work at the center ring after a platform collapsed during an aerial hair-hanging stunt Sunday at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in Providence, R.I.

Acrobats fall during circus

Platform collapse leaves 9 performers hurt

– A platform collapsed during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at a circus performance Sunday, sending eight acrobats plummeting to the ground.

Nine performers were seriously injured in the fall, including a dancer below, while an unknown number of others suffered less serious injuries.

The accident was reported about 45 minutes into the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ 11 a.m. Legends show at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros., said the accident happened during an act in which eight performers hang “like a human chandelier” using their hair.

He said the metal-frame apparatus from which the performers were hanging came free from the metal truss it was connected to. The eight women fell 25 to 40 feet, landing on a dancer on the ground.

All the performers have been doing “some variation of this act for some time,” Payne said, although he didn’t know how long. The current incarnation of the act began in January with the launch of the show, he said.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said officials and inspectors haven’t yet determined what caused the accident. He said none of the injuries appears to be life-threatening.

Video taken by audience members showed a curtain coming down, and several performers hanging about25 feet in the air from an apparatus suspended from above. Seconds later, as they began to perform, the women fell and the metal apparatus landed on them.

“It just went crashing down,” said audience member Sydney Bragg, 14, of North Kingstown. “Everyone was freaking out. We heard this huge clatter and then we just heard the girls scream.”

She said spotlights were on the performers at the time, but all the lights went out after the fall.

Rosa Viveiros of Seekonk, Massachusetts, said she saw that the acrobats had fallen on top of at least one other performer on the ground, a man who stood up with his face bloodied.

The acrobats remained still and did not get up, she said.

“We thought it was part of the circus,” said her husband, Joe.

The couple attended the circus with their 6-year-old grandson and 9-year-old niece.

“Everyone was in shock,” Rosa Viveiros said. “It was pretty overwhelming to see that.”

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