Failed clip in circus accident handed over to feds

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – While the stars of one of its most popular acts continue recovering at Rhode Island Hospital, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is moving on with its national tour.

The circus packed up and left Providence en route for Connecticut Tuesday morning to begin preparing for a series of performances that will begin Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, eight female performers who star in the show’s “human chandelier” aerial act will remain in Rhode Island, recovering from injuries they sustained in a frightening accident during Sunday morning’s performance in Providence.

In a statement released early Tuesday afternoon, Feld Entertainment – the circus’ parent company – said during load-in at the Hardford location, all equipment will undergo a full safety inspection before performing.

The eight performers fell nearly 30 feet to the ground after a piece of equipment apparently malfunctioned during the group’s popular aerial act. There was no net underneath to catch them.

All eight women, plus at least three other victims, were immediately rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, some with severe injuries. None of the acrobats have yet been released from the hospital, but – around 48 hours after the accident – hospital officials said Tuesday morning they are each expected to make full recoveries.

The hospital announced they’ll be holding a news conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the injuries to the performers and the care they’ve been receiving.

“The accident is currently under review by both our company and outside authorities,” a spokeswoman for Feld Entertainment said on Tuesday. “It has been determined that a carabiner in the rigging failed; however, we do not know at this point why.”

The failed carabiner was also mentioned by Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, who told Target 12 on Monday that the steel clip that was meant to secure the performers in mid-air snapped during the show. Pare said the device looked like a “large carbiner clip” and that it broke on the “solid part of the clip; not at the hinge.”

The broken clip was handed over to Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials Tuesday morning, according to Providence Fire Union President Paul Doughty.

The investigation into the accident remains ongoing, and Feld Entertainment says the next step is determining why and how the act’s rigging failed.

“Determining why is critical to identifying the next step in this process,” the statement continues. “The safety of our cast and crew, as well as our guests, is our highest priority. We will continue to inspect all of our equipment on our touring shows, and we are replacing every carabiner on this unit before the next performance.”

At last check, the three performers who were once listed in critical condition had each shown improvement at the hospital, and half of the act was listed in good condition. As of Tuesday morning, Dayana Costa, Julissa Segrera, Viktoriya Medeiros and Stefany Neves were listed in serious condition, while Viktorilla Liakhova, Svitlana Balanicheva, Widney Neves and Samantha Pitard were all listed in good condition.

The Ringling Bros. website describes the stunt that went awry on Sunday as a “Hair Hang.”

“These ‘hairialists’ perform a combination of choreography and cut-ups including spinning, hanging from hoops, and rolling down wrapped silks, all while being suspended 35 feet in the air by their hair alone,” the site says. “In this hair-raising act, audiences will even see the weight of three girls held aloft by the locks of only one of these tangled beauties.”

Feld Entertainment said the hair hang act will not be in the show’s upcoming performances.

The remainder of the circus’ Providence schedule was canceled after Sunday’s accident.

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