Eight female aerialists fell 10 metres (35ft) when apparatus failed in a Ringling Bros. show in Rhode Island, USA, on Sunday 4th May 2014.
All eight were seriously injured along with a dancer below who was struck by the falling equipment. It's believed that none of the injuries are life-threatening but some had to undergo surgery and one performer is in a critical condition.
A father of one of the performers said that "it was a miracle" that everyone survived.
Please be aware that while not graphic, the video below does show the fall and may be upsetting for some people.
The accident happened in front of a full-house and some onlookers, including young children, were shocked and traumatised from witnessing the fall that happened just seconds into the performance. A helpline has been set up for those spectators upset by the incident and in need of counselling.
The group of acrobats, known as The Medeiros Hair Hang Act, perform a routine which involves them all being suspended by their hair in a "human chandelier". As the curtain fell they had time to complete just two of their moves before the tragedy occurred.
Federal safety investigators are conducting an investigation, as are the Ringling Bros. themselves. The investigations are currently focusing on a D-ring carabiner that was found in three pieces after the accident. The Federal investigators have yet to determine the cause of the carabiner's failure and the Ringling Bros. said: "It’s premature to go down that road and say whether that clamp was a contributing factor or not," before their own investigation was completed.
The apparatus, including the carabiner in question, was visually tested before the performance, as it is before every performance. However, an inspector with the fire department said it's possible some structural weakness would not have been visible. The apparatus had been used 12-14 times a week since January and metal fatigue has been suggested as one possible cause of the accident.
According to NBC, the carabiner in question was supposed to be able to support 10,000 lbs (4535 kg). The aerialists and apparatus weighed about 1,500 lbs (680 kgs).
As the investigation into this terrible accident continues it serves as a reminder of the importance of safety in aerial acrobatics. There is always an element of risk in aerial circus but these risks can be minimised by taking proper precautions. If you have any concerns about your own aerial rigging please give us a call. Firetoys has three members of staff who have completed an aerial rigging course who will do their best to answer your questions.