VIDEO: Circus performers injured in fall in Ringling Bros. act - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

VIDEO: Circus performers injured in fall in Ringling Bros. act

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A platform collapsed during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at a circus performance Sunday in Providence, R.I., 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 minor injuries.

Rhode Island Hospital in Providence admitted 11 patients with varying injuries, including one in critical condition, spokeswoman Jill Reuter said.

The performers fell when a platform collapsed during an aerial act at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at about 11:45 a.m. One dancer below was also injured.

A circus spokesman said the performers fell from a height of 25 to 40 feet.

A circus spokesman 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, though he didn't know how long. The current incarnation of the act began in January with the launch of the show, he said.

The circus issued a statement that said in part, "All performers in the act received immediate medical attention and were transported to a local hospital for further care. Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured. We hope for them a speedy recovery."

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.

The hair-hanging stunt is described on the circus' website as a "larger-than-life act" featuring eight female performers.

"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 website 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."

The Associated Press quotes Sydney Bragg, 14, of North Kingstown, saying, “The platform began to fall as it neared the rafters of the arena.” At first Bragg thought it was part of the act. "It just went crashing down," Bragg said. "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.

Circus shows scheduled for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on May 4 have been canceled. Ticket refunds are available at the point of sales. Ticketmaster orders will be refunded automatically.

There is no announcement yet about the performances scheduled for Monday, May 5.

The show is what Ringling Bros. calls the Legends tour, or the All-New Blue Tour.

The tour is scheduled to be in Raleigh at PNC Arena in February.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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