Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 5, 2014

Snapped clamp eyed in circus accident; 2 critical

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Investigators on Monday were looking at a broken clamp as they tried to figure out what caused eight circus acrobats to plummet to the ground during an aerial hair-hanging stunt, although the circus company said it's too early to blame the accident on the clamp.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare told WPRO-AM a clamp that held the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus performers to the rafters had failed.

"It snapped off," Pare said. "We have it, we're analyzing it, we're seeing why it happened to ensure it doesn't happen in the future."

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 spokeswoman for Rhode Island Hospital said performers Dayana Costa and Julissa Segrera were in critical condition. Viktoriya Medeiros, Stefany Neves and Viktorila Liakhova were listed in serious condition, while Samantha Pitard, Svitlana Balanicheva and Widny Neves were listed in good condition. The women are from the United States, Brazil, Bulgaria and Ukraine, according to the circus website.

Widny Neves' father, Roitner Neves, said she broke her right arm and suffered back and neck fractures. He 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.

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