Ringmaster Thanks Crowd for Thoughts & Prayers

Ringling Bros. has replaced all the carabiners.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus performed for the first time Thursday night in Hartford, since last weekend's dramatic accident during an acrobatic stunt in Rhode Island.

“Our young ladies are recovering they’re in great spirits,” said Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson as he addressed thousands of fans at the XL Center. He dedicated the show to the 9 acrobats who were injured.  

Eight performers fell to 25 to 40 feet to the ground during that act Sunday at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence when their platform dropped abruptly and unexpectedly. They landed on the male dancer below, with no net to break their fall. Two perforers sustained spinal cord injuries.

The circus' parent company Feld Entertainment, as well as fire officials in Providence, said earlier this week that an initial investigation indicated that a snapped carabiner was to blame, but circus officials said on Thursday that there was no information yet as to a definitive cause.

Before the shows started at the XL Center in Hartford, there was a comprehensive safety evaluation, and the circus replaced all the carabiners as a precaution.

During a news conference earlier Thursday, Iverson said that the injured acrobats were "stubborn as ever" during their recoveries. "They are strong. They're in fabulous spirits," he said.

He testified to the familial support of the circus community, and how it was helping performers through the aftermath of the fall. He also thanked the first responders in Providence who rushed to the fallen acrobats' aid. "I'm convinced they may have saved the life of two," he said.

Reporters asked what the plans are for the hair-hanging act returning to the circus, and Steve Payne, a spokesperson from Feld Entertainment, said it is too early to tell. Right now the priority is on the recovery of the performances.

Initial reports indicated that three performers were in critical condition, two were serious, four were in good condition and the ninth performer was discharged. Their conditions have since been upgraded.

Investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are probing last Sunday's accident, along with local authorities in Rhode Island.

"The cause of the accident continues to be under review by both our company and outside authorities. It has been determined that a carabiner in the rigging failed, however we do not know at this point why. Each piece of equipment used in this act is inspected when it is initially rigged and visually re-inspected prior to each performance," Feld Entertainment said in a statement Tuesday.

The remaining Hartford shows are scheduled for Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Saturday at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Earlier this week, the company said they will not be giving refunds for people who have tickets and do not want to attend the local show. Refunds are only available in the event that performances are canceled.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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