"We thought it was part of the circus."
On Sunday morning at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, eight female acrobats, one dancer, and two others were injured when a clamp snapped, sending the performers plummeting 35 feet to the ground.
The act, part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus "Legends" show, reveals eight women hanging by their hair in a "larger-than-life" aerial stunt show.
"They've used this act many times," said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare. "Unfortunately this particular clamp failed. It snapped off. We have it, we're analyzing it, we're seeing why it happened to ensure it doesn't happen in the future. That's all part of our focus."
Three of the acrobats remain in critical condition this morning, two in serious condition, and three in good condition. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.
Approximately 3,900 were in attendance at the 11 a.m. circus performance, most of them children.
"It just went crashing down," said 14-year old audience member Sydney Bragg. "Everyone was freaking out. We heard this huge clatter and then we just heard the girls scream."
"I screamed. I'm like, that's not right," said spectator Chelie Barrie. "You know, sometimes you're surprised and it's part of the show, but this clearly wasn't."
Rosa Viveiros of Seekonk, Massachusetts, said that she saw the acrobats fall on top of at least one other performer below, a man who stood up with a bloody face.
"Everyone was in shock," Viveiros said. "It was pretty overwhelming to see that."
The case is being investigated by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
"As with any OSHA inspection, its purpose will be to determine whether or not there were any violations of workplace safety standards in connection with this incident," said spokesman Andre Bowser.
Steve Payne, spokesman for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, said that the apparatus had been used for multiple performances each week since they launched the "Legends" show in February.
"Each and every time that we come to a new venue, all of the equipment that is used by this performer - this group of performers as well as other performers - is carefully inspected. We take the health and safety of our performers and our guests very seriously, and our company has a safety department that spends countless hours making sure that all of our equipment is indeed safe and effective for continued use."
This isn't the first time an aerial accident has occurred under the watch of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey. In 2004, a performer was killed when she feel 30 feet after one of the long chiffon scarves she was using to twirl in the air gave way.
The two later "Legends" shows were canceled on Sunday after the accident. The Ticketmaster website later announced that the show will move to the XL Center in Hartford beginning again on Thursday.
Providence Public Safety is encouraging those who are troubled after witnessing the incident to call the disaster distress hotline, 1-800-985-5990.
Image via YouTube