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Acrobats fall at US circus

UPDATE 12:00 P.M.

 A platform collapsed during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at a circus performance Sunday, sending eight entertainers plummeting to the ground. Nine performers were seriously injured in the fall, including a dancer below.

The accident was reported at about 11:45 a.m. during the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus' 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 when eight female 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.

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 description 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."

Sydney Bragg, 14, of North Kingstown, said the collapse happened about 90 minutes into the show. She said the platform began to fall as it neared the rafters of the arena. At first, she said, she thought it was part of the act.

"It just went crashing down," Sydney 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.

Rosa Viveiros of Seekonk, Mass., said the act was covered by a curtain. Shortly after the curtain was pulled away, she said, the performers fell on top of at least one other performer, a man who stood up with his face bloodied.

"We thought it was part of the circus," said Rosa Viveiros' husband, Joe.

The Dunkin' Donuts Center said two shows scheduled for later Sunday and two others Monday are on hold.


An eyewitness says a number of acrobats performing an aerial stunt at a circus in Rhode Island have fallen to the ground.

Several fire department rescue units were at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence where Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed Sunday.

Othello Smith of Providence and his family left the building shortly after the accident. He told the Providence Journal that the performers were doing an aerial act, spinning on ropes or cables, and dropped.

He says about eight performers were involved. The number of injuries is unclear.

The circus arrived in town on Friday and had performances scheduled through Monday.

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