Pitard said it had been a normal performance Sunday. The curtain dropped to reveal the eight women suspended in the air, but something went wrong when they did their third leg position.
"We heard a huge crack, huge noise, and then we were just plummeting to the ground," she said. "It was very fast. I remember everything."
The 350-pound chandelier landed on them. Pitard said rescue crews got to them quickly to free them from the apparatus, then gave them medical attention.
"I was sitting up, and once I caught my breath, I was looking at all the girls," she said. "I wanted to know that everybody was OK. I saw my troupe leader (Viktoriya Medeiros), she was right next to me, and I heard her say that she couldn't feel her legs."
The paramedics instructed her to lie down.
Pitard described her injuries, including fractures on her spine, a cut on her head that required three stitches and a badly bitten tongue, as minor.
Local investigators are turning over the broken clip and other material to federal workplace safety authorities. Fire investigator Paul Doughty said they have narrowed down the cause of the broken clip to two possibilities: a manufacturing defect or improper use.
The circus inspected its equipment Monday night when it loaded up in Providence and planned another inspection when it unloaded in Hartford, Connecticut, where it performs next, said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Ringling's parent company. The hair act won't be performed there, the company said.
Pitard said she became interested in being in the circus as a child during a camp that offered a circus program.
She later attended the New England Center for Circus Arts and learned aerial acrobat skills. She joined Ringling Bros. as a clown in November 2012 and later was invited to join the highly specialized hair-hanging act.