Cirque du Soleil star plunges to death during Florida show

March 18 (Reuters) - An experienced Cirque du Soleil performer has died after plunging onto a stage during an aerial straps routine at a weekend show in Tampa, Florida, the company said on Sunday.

The incident occurred on Saturday night when Yann Arnaud fell during a performance of the show VOLTA, according to Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. The 38-year-old performance artist died of his injuries at a nearby hospital.

Arnaud had performed in Cirque shows for 15 years and was considered one of the company's most experienced entertainers, president and CEO Daniel Lamarre said in a phone interview.

"We were very surprised, considering his experience, that something like that happened," said Lamarre, speaking from Tampa, where he had flown to be with the show's cast. "I cannot describe to you how the people feel. It's terrible."

The death is the third fatality involving a Cirque performer in the company's 34 years, said Lamarre, adding that the aerial strap act is seen as a relatively safe number.

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Cirque du Soleil performers
Artists perform during Quidam, a show by Cirque du Soleil, at the Royal Albert Hall in London January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Artists perform during a dress rehearsal for Quidam, a show by Cirque du Soleil, at the Royal Albert Hall in London January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Artists perform during a dress rehearsal for Quidam, a show by Cirque du Soleil, at the Royal Albert Hall in London January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Artists perform during a dress rehearsal for Quidam, a show by Cirque du Soleil, at the Royal Albert Hall in London January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
An artist performs in water during a dress rehearsal for 'Amaluna', a show by Cirque du Soleil, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain January 15, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Cast members of the Cirque Du Soleil show "Saltimbanco" perform during a show in Riga December 21, 2011. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA - Tags: SOCIETY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Artists perform during the Cirque du Soleil's Kooza show in London's Royal Albert Hall January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hackett (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
An artist performs during Cirque du Soleil's show "Alegria" in Tel Aviv August 8, 2012. The group will present 21 shows in Tel Aviv from August 8 to 25. REUTERS/ Nir Elias (ISRAEL - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
A cast member of the Cirque Du Soleil show "Saltimbanco" performs during a show in Riga December 21, 2011. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA - Tags: SOCIETY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Performer during the Cirque du Soleil OVO dress rehearsal at Royal Albert Hall on January 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Duo Straps Performers during the Cirque du Soleil OVO dress rehearsal at Royal Albert Hall on January 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/WireImage)
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Lamarre said he could not share further details about the incident involving Arnaud, a husband and father with two young children who was from France. The company said it was cooperating with authorities looking into what happened.

Local media reports said Arnaud appeared to lose his grip on a strap before he fell, bringing the show to an immediate halt. Tampa police said the incident is under investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Detroit; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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