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Probe done in circus accident, feds give evidence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Local investigators have completed an initial probe into a circus accident that sent eight acrobats plummeting to the floor during a hair-hanging stunt and are turning over a broken clip and other material to federal workplace safety investigators, a Providence fire official said Tuesday.

The carabiner clip was one of several pieces at the top of a chandelier-like apparatus that was suspending the acrobats during Sunday morning's performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus before 3,900 people, many of them children.

It is not yet clear why the 4- to 5-inch steel clip broke into three pieces, fire investigator Paul Doughty said. That is up to investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine.

Doughty said they have narrowed down the cause of the broken clip to two possibilities: a manufacturing defect or improper use. The latter could have to do with how it was installed in the rigging, he said.

"For example, it could only be used in the long directions, it can't be sideways," he said. "When you get involved with rigging, angles become very, very important."

Doughty said they would also be turning over interviews, investigators' initial findings and measurements.

The circus packed up and headed for Connecticut without eight of its acrobats, who remained hospitalized in Providence. When the clip snapped, the women fell 20 feet or more to the ground, and the apparatus landed on them.

Relatives and rescuers say the women suffered injuries including a pierced liver, neck and back fractures, broken ankles and head injuries. Four of the women were in serious condition and four were in good condition Tuesday morning, according to Rhode Island Hospital.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stopped short of saying the carabiner was the cause of the accident. OSHA is trying to make a final determination.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Ringling's parent company, said the circus inspected all of its equipment on Monday night when it loaded up in Providence and planned another inspection when it unloaded in Hartford. He said the circus is replacing each carabiner in the show before the next performance, on Thursday in Hartford. The hair act will not be performed there, the company said.

The equipment has been used dozens of times per week since the beginning of the year, and a circus crew had installed it last week, according to Payne. The crew told investigators the clip had been visually inspected before the show.

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Larry May 06 2014 at 8:38 PM

It was indeed a hair raising event. Jjust how far do these thrill seeking outfits need to go when enough is E N O U G H ?

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1 reply
JOEKNOZIT Larry May 06 2014 at 11:05 PM

It was evidently equipment failure. I love the circus and have seen many in my 79 years without any incidents only extremely skilled performers and animals (well cared for I might add...the animals and I assume the performers as they all looked healthy and fit) entertaining me, my family and millions of others for years. A tragic event for sure and prayers for all to recover. There are risk-takers who love to take risks and those who like to watch...perhaps that does not include you Larry...and so be it.

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1 reply
Teresa JOEKNOZIT May 27 2014 at 8:46 AM

not necessarily - it could have been human error if the uprigger wasn't experienced enough or paying attn well enough. upriggers are the difference between life and death for the acts and the audience - there are hundreds of thousands of pounds on those beams up there for shows - look up next time you go to a show - and then remember NONE of that was there that morning

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gottabewv May 06 2014 at 3:53 PM

"It is not yet clear why the 4- to 5-inch steel clip broke into three pieces, fire investigator Paul Doughty said." BECAUSE IT WAS MADE IN CHINA???

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2 replies
frozenbull gottabewv May 06 2014 at 3:58 PM

What a surprize , an inferior product of China .

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rconfsd gottabewv May 06 2014 at 4:27 PM

Where does it say made in china anywhere in the story. Not saying it wasn't but it's to easy to jump to conclusions than wait for the facts.

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1 reply
m4lucky rconfsd May 07 2014 at 5:17 AM

hey roonfed! everything is made in china! i wouldn't trust any communist country to begin with! you didn't get that frozenbull was being facetious ? maybe? yes! i put my bet on china!

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frozenbull May 06 2014 at 3:57 PM

What's to probe . The chain or the coupling gave way and down they came . Horrible accident . To bad the kids had to see it . These circus acts know exactly what the risk are , every time they perform .

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1 reply
no1gum frozenbull May 06 2014 at 7:55 PM

So finding out if it's poor design or weak parts or negligence isn't important?

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csalvocummings May 06 2014 at 4:01 PM

how come no backup safety chain to hold the rigging up even if the clip failed???

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1 reply
David csalvocummings May 06 2014 at 5:10 PM

Interesting question posed there. As for the answer - I'm NOT sure any can be provided!

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mom May 06 2014 at 4:06 PM

What I can't believe is how they just packed up & left town to go on to their next venue. I'm only 5 miles away from were this happened, they left ticket holders of 3 shows out in the cold.

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3 replies
Jeremiah May 06 2014 at 4:29 PM

This is a circus - Obama should be featured.

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3 replies
Linda May 06 2014 at 4:32 PM

I know what it is like to break your back coz I did. I almost broke my neck. Neither my neck or back was ever the same again after my accident. These performers are in for a long haul. It is a long and painful healing process and they may never be able to perform again. Back and neck injuries are pretty serious things. A pierced liver sounds really painful too. Broken ankles, head injuries......ggeezzzz. If it were me I would never do that stunt again. Terrible accident for everyone involved. I wish them all a speedy recovery.

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2 replies
David Linda May 06 2014 at 5:08 PM

I've had MY share of breaking some of the bones (or body parts) I have. I think the WORST time for me was around December of 1984, as I was coming home from doing some bowling, and when it was DARK outside. I think I woke up from unconsciousness a couple of hours later, taken to a hospital, and (when my mother, sister, and aunt came to the hospital), gathered as MUCH breath as I could, and yelled "Here I am!"

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thankgodikauai Linda May 06 2014 at 5:24 PM

healing help at howardwills dt com

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Bob Goldsack May 06 2014 at 4:38 PM

Unfortunately, this is an opportunity for Peta and its money grabbing animal rights people to blame the circus, which provides wonderful entertainment to families all over the United States. Why don't they complain when someone on the Broadway stage gets hurt or when so many movie stars and others die from drugs.

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4 replies
Benjamin Theis May 06 2014 at 5:45 PM

Hopes and Prayers for all those ladies. That was a vicious crash.

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rocky26900 May 06 2014 at 6:00 PM

I'm pretty sure the cause of this accident will ultimately be determined to be that "Made in China" stamping on the side of the steel clip.

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