PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Investigators suspect that a snapped clip sent eight aerial acrobats plummeting 20 feet or more during a daring act in which performers dangle from their hair. One injured performer told her father she didn't notice anything amiss before her "plunge into darkness."
The clip, a common type called a carabiner that's used for everything from rock climbing to holding keyrings, was one of several pieces at the top of a chandelier-like apparatus that suspended the performers, fire officials said. After the accident, the 4- to 5-inch steel clip was found in three pieces on the ground with its spine snapped.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stopped short of saying the carabiner caused Sunday's accident at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus, witnessed by about 3,900 people, many of them children. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is trying to make a final determination.
"We don't know if it was metal fatigue, if it wasn't properly positioned or something else," Pare said. "We just don't know."
All eight of the acrobats were still hospitalized with injuries including a pierced liver and neck and back fractures, as well as head injuries. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening, said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Ringling's parent company. The last two acrobats in critical condition were upgraded to serious condition tonight. Four of the acrobats were in good condition and four in serious.