• Officials: Failed clamp caused circus accident that injured 9


    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Officials told FOX 25 a failed clamp caused an accident that injured nine performers at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Sunday.

    Three performers remain in serious condition Wednesday evening, one is in fair condition and three are in good condition. One person was released earlier this week and another discharged Tuesday, according to a statement from Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey.

    Eight women were hanging 30 to 40 feet in the air by their hair when the metal frame suddenly crashed to the ground.

    The circus was in its final act before intermission at the Dunkin' Donuts Center when the performance was unveiled. The curtain dropped and moments later the metal apparatus dropped, falling more than 25 feet. Why a carabiner in the rigging failed is still being investigated.

    According to the company, the carabiner in the act was supposed to hold 10,000 pounds, and the performers and equipment weighed less than 1,500 pounds.

    All eight acrobats and one performer on the ground were seriously injured.

    Performer Widny Neves' father spoke to FOX 25 Monday from Brazil, saying that his daughter has a broken arm, a hurt neck and back, but she may not need surgery. Widny has been performing this act for 4 years, but has been performing her whole life, he said. He is worried about the others who were injured, saying that one of them is fighting for her life. Widny's mother will be flying in from Brazil soon to see her daughter.

    Many families with young children in the audience were horrified by the accident. More than 3,900 adults and children were in attendance.

    Performances scheduled for Monday at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. were canceled as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to investigate. One of the things being looked at is why there wasn't a net beneath the performers.

    On Monday night, the circus company and outside authorities re-inspected the metal rigging.

    The "Hair Hangers" aerial act has been part of the show since January. According to the Ringling Bros. website, the performers hurt were from the United States, Brazil, Bulgaria, and Ukraine. Officials with the Dunkin' Donuts Center told FOX 25 they are working to bring family members of the injured performers to Providence.

    The Providence Journal is reporting that the circus' parent company is Florida-based Feld Entertainment, the same company which oversees the Disney on Ice shows.

    Feld Entertainment released a statement Monday that read in part: "The accident is currently under review by both our company and outside authorities. It has been determined that a carabiner in the rigging failed, however we do not know at this point why. Determining why is critical to identifying the next step in this process. The safety of our cast, staff 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."

    The letter went on to say that the circus is traveling to Hartford, Conn. on Tuesday and performances will proceed as scheduled, however, the hair hang act will not be part of the show.

    Patrons wishing to receive free crisis counseling can call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. Hearing impaired individuals should call 1-800-846-8517. The hotline is operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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