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Circus Rigging Collapses, Injuring 9; OSHA Investigating

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 05, 2014 3:44 PM

A circus rigging collapse in Rhode Island has left at least nine performers injured, and an OSHA probe is underway to determine the cause.

The incident occurred at a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus event in Providence, Rhode Island, on Sunday. Eight acrobats in a "human chandelier" fell approximately 30 feet to the ground, injuring a ninth performer on the ground. CNN reports that witnesses observed a cable snap during the acrobatic feat, plummeting the performers to the floor.

What potentially caused these circus injuries?

'Hair-Hang' Act Ends With Injurious Fall

The tragic fall occurred at an 11 a.m. Sunday performance by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. According to a statement released by the Providence Department of Public Safety, the nine performers were injured when the apparatus suspending them as part of the "Hair Hangers" aerial act "unexpectedly collapsed."

Emergency responders evacuated the crowd and transported those injured to the hospital, and all injured parties were "conscious at the time of emergency response," Rhode Island Hospital spokeswoman Jill Flaxington told CNN.

CNN also reported that a total of 11 people were taken to the hospital, but it's not clear who the other two people were.

All the Right Permits

The City of Providence announced it will be investigating the circus-injury incident in cooperation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and noted that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received all the required permits from the city for the performance.

Lack of permits is a simple way for a business involved even in a small injury to be sued. If the circus company had failed to obtain a proper safety permit prior to the "Hair Hangers" fall, it may have been found liable for the performers' injuries as negligence per se.

Searching for Fault

Since the circus may have all its administrative ducks in a row, the OSHA and Providence investigators will likely be looking to the preparation of the "Hair Hangers" act for answers.

According to the circus' website, the "Hair Hang" is the "brainchild" of Andrey and Viktoria Medeiros, and Andrey's "attention to detail" on the hanging rig is what keeps his troupe "safe and sound."

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