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5 Circus Sarasota high-wire performers injured in fall

wallenda pyramid
Reis & 7 person pyramid
Posted at 2:15 AM, Feb 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-09 08:51:50-05

SARASOTA, Fla. - Multiple performers were practicing their attempted world record-breaking stunt on Wednesday under the Big Top when something terribly went wrong Wednesday.

The 8 person pyramid on the high wire went careening to the ground from 25 feet in the air.

"It's a very difficult trick, obviously," said Pedro Reis, Founder of the Circus Arts Conservatory.  "There are 8 people involved and it's obviously a lot of momentum involved, and if somebody loses a balance than something can go wrong."

Three of the five circus performers who were injured were brought to Sarasota Memorial Hospital while the other two were taken to Blake Medical Center and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.  Two of the three at Sarasota Memorial remain in critical condition while the other is in guarded condition.  Doctors say all of the performers hurt are expected to make a full recovery.

"Mostly orthopedic injuries, there's traumatic brain injuries and pelvic injuries," said Dr. Alan Brockhurst with Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Although world renowned circus performer Nik Wallenda was part of this act, he was not injured.  This was scheduled to be the grand finale act for the upcoming Circus Sarasota show.  Jennifer Mitchell, Managing Director of the Circus Arts Conservatory says many circus performers take tremendous risks each and every time they perform.

"We take safety very seriously at Circus Sarasota," said Mitchell.  "We make sure safety precautions are adhered to and I want to be clear that this was not an equipment or rigging failure. Despite that diligence within our industry, accidents do happen."

The Wallendas have had tragedy in their family performing this act decades ago.  Back in 1962, two high-wire performers with the Flying Wallendas fell to their deaths while performing a 7-person pyramid.  There was not a safety net below the performers back then or now.

"It's Wallenda tradition, several generations of high-wire walking where they do not use a net and that is common practice for the Wallendas," said Mitchell.

The names of those injured have yet to be released.  We know one of the people injured is a member of the Wallenda family and at least one other is a graduate from Sarasota's Sailor Circus.

"Wish all of those who fell a speedy recovery, our hearts go out to them and their families," said Reis.

The show will go on.  Circus Sarasota will open as scheduled this Friday night.