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Carabiner eyed in Rhode Island circus accident; 2 in critical condition


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A carabiner is the only piece of equipment investigators have found that failed in a circus accident in which eight aerial acrobats plummeted to the ground, a public safety official said Monday.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stopped short of saying the broken carabiner was the cause of Sunday's accident at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus. He said federal workplace safety investigators were trying to determine why it snapped.

"We don't know if it was metal fatigue, if it wasn't properly positioned or something else," he added. "We just don't know."

The 4- to 5-inch steel clip was one of several pieces at the top of a chandelier-like apparatus that suspended the performers in the air, fire officials said at a news conference. The clip was found in three pieces on the ground with its spine snapped.

Two of the acrobats were in critical condition Monday. Family members say their injuries included a pierced liver and neck and back fractures. Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros., said none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.

"We are hopeful that all of these performers will achieve a full recovery and be able to return to the show at some point," Payne said. A dancer who was on the ground was also injured and released from the hospital Sunday, he said.

Carabiner Eyed in Circus Accident

The circus said the women are from the United States, Brazil, Bulgaria and Ukraine.

The father of one of the women, Widny Neves, said his daughter broke her right arm and suffered back and neck fractures. Roitner Neves said Widny, who had been traveling with the circus for more than four years, was the in the center of the apparatus and upside-down when it fell.

"It was like a plunge into darkness," he said.

She is 25 and from Joinville, Brazil, where her family owns a circus academy.

"In this profession, you run the risk of being injured," he said. "It's like being a race car driver or a gymnast. There's always the risk."

Two women were listed in critical condition by Rhode Island Hospital, Dayana Costa and Julissa Segrera. Costa's cousin told Brazil's TV Globo's G1 internet news portal that she had undergone surgery in her back.

Another injured acrobat, Stefany Neves, fractured both her ankles and had her liver pierced by her ribs, her sister Renata Neves told the same news outlet. She was listed in serious condition.

Investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration were leading the investigation.

The accident at the Dunkin' Donuts Center was witnessed by an audience of about 3,900, many of them children.

The performers - called "hairialists" by the circus - hang "like a human chandelier" using their hair during the act. The performance is supposed to include choreography as well as spinning, hanging from hoops and rolling down wrapped silks while suspended 25 to 40 feet up.

Video taken by audience members shows a curtain dropping to reveal the eight women hanging from a metal apparatus suspended from above. Seconds later, as they begin to perform, the women fall, and the apparatus lands on them.

The hair-hanging stunt is described on the circus' website as being the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Andrey and Viktoriya Medeiros. Viktoriya Medeiros is among the injured.

Payne said the equipment has been used dozens of times per week since the beginning of the year, and that a circus crew had installed it last week. The crew also inspects it, he said, and performers generally check their own rigging.

Paul Doughty, of the Providence Fire Department, said on Monday that circus officials told investigators they had done a visual inspection of the carabiner before the show. He said the carabiner, which was hooked into various other pieces of equipment, could have had a weakness that was not apparent. He did not know how old it was or how many times it had been used.

State and city officials have no role in inspecting such equipment, they said.


Associated Press writers Adriana Gomez Licon from Sao Paulo, Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., and Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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luvshumr68 May 05 2014 at 7:37 PM

IF it was a swivel-eye carabiner ( not sure ) then i'm not surprised that it failed to hold that many people. There are steel carabiners and aluminum of different styles/shapes. The "working-ratio" normally should be a factor of 10 to 1, or another way of looking at it is..........................tensile-strength approx. 5600 pounds, so NOT to try and hold more than about 560 pounds "safely". My guess = same old carabiner used day after day, over-loaded and eventually failed. So sorry for those who were injured. Blame = their OWN safety people.

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jggorgeous luvshumr68 May 05 2014 at 7:46 PM

As a veteran rock climber, whenever relying on a fixed anchor, we always build redundancy into the system, especially when more than one person is being suspended by the anchor point. They should have used two beefy carabiners to suspend the apparatus.

This is simple common sense.

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ron May 05 2014 at 9:15 PM

These people know the dangers of their job. It's their choice. Accidents happen and you idiots want to control everything people do. More people die crab fishing every year. I'm sure you want them to not have a choice either.

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julie May 05 2014 at 9:19 PM

ONE carabiner holding all that weight ? that looks like the cause of the horrible accident.
I will never take my grandaughter to a bullfight or to one of those circuses

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Miguel A Nunez May 05 2014 at 9:42 PM

Horrible let us all say a prayer for them. I believe if we all send our good thoughts it will make their healing come about faster. the more we morn it the longer the healing last because we send out the pity hurt vibes... I believe they will all get better and live long and successful lives.... I believe it and it WILL HAPPEN... WATCH AND SEE. remember this text.... Im calling it right now.... how many are with me.... #They will get better.. @miguelanunezjr

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Warren May 05 2014 at 9:43 PM

Pray to Our Lord for his healing gifts of His Mercy .

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Kim Rich May 05 2014 at 9:43 PM

Praying for you ladies! I am so sorry for your suffering!

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1 reply
Diana Kim Rich May 05 2014 at 10:21 PM

How about the suffering of the animals in thecircus that they say every day and did nothing?

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giacomominella Diana May 05 2014 at 10:26 PM

who cares about the animals

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oceansunset76242 Diana May 05 2014 at 11:11 PM


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Dee May 05 2014 at 9:57 PM

No one has mentioned the trama and fright the little kids in the audience experienced when they witnessed this awful accident. I'll bet a lot of them have nightmares for a long time. I will never take me grand kids to the circus again.

I think I would have flashback myself and I am not a little kid. This is just not right. Maybe the circus should re-think their death defying acts. Death wins too often.
Once is too often.

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stephen284 May 05 2014 at 9:59 PM

A carabiner in three pieces indicates that the gate was not fully locked. Generally, in safety gear type caribiners the gate is closed and then there is a mechanism (locking screw nut) that keeps the gate from opening without specific intent. When properly locked the caribiner becomes a one piece assembly. If unlocked, it is nothing more than a hook that can spread or deform under a load. it is unlikely that any damage to the caribiner before a performance would go unnoticed, if properly inspected.

That being said, not having redundancy built into a life-safety system is pretty stupid. The issue is that this was the weak link in the chain and there was nothing to back it up. A safety caribiner is usually rated in kilo-newtons. It's a good practice to over-rate a safety system by 150-200%. There is a difference between a "static load," and a "dynamic load." Essentially, circus performers are moving and therefore constitute a dynamic load.

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1 reply
dmwhite37 stephen284 May 05 2014 at 11:31 PM

All true. Very astute Stephen. You must be a structural engineer. These circus folks need guys like you to make sure their equipment is safe.

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alterupet May 05 2014 at 10:23 PM

People should not attend any circus where there is animals involved. That is supporting animal cruelty.
If humans want to risk their lives and people want to pay and see it, fine, leave the animals out of it.
There is no place in a humane society for circus animals. Barbaric!

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2 replies
Diana alterupet May 05 2014 at 10:29 PM

I agree with you 100%. Those people knew the risks they were taking and did it anyway, probably for the money. Animals have no such choice. The acrobats got what they deserved for seeing the animal cruelty day after day and doing nothing about it.

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3 replies
raftertail alterupet May 05 2014 at 10:44 PM

I guess you care more about animals than people. What does that make you? Are you serious? People just got hurt and you're worried about the animals. I didn't hear about any animals getting hurt.

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2 replies
FRANCES raftertail May 05 2014 at 11:06 PM

Why not care more about animals than people in a situation like this? Animals don't have a choice as to whether they are "performing" in a circus; people do. Animals experience fear and pain just as keenly as do humans. Didn't you know that, or do you just not care?

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oceansunset76242 raftertail May 05 2014 at 11:08 PM


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peacerig May 05 2014 at 9:10 PM

i dont care.
good bye circus

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