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5 Circus Sarasota tightrope walkers injured in fall while rehearsing 8-person pyramid

wallenda pyramid
Reis & 7 person pyramid
Posted at 12:50 PM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-09 08:51:50-05

SARASOTA Co., Fla. (WWSB) -- Sarasota Circus performers were attempting the highest 8-person pyramid walk ever when they fell from the high-wire.

The feat was performed flawlessly yesterday, according to Pedro Reis, founder and CEO of the Sarasota Circus Arts Conservatory. It would have set a world record for height at 25 feet.

Five performers were injured in the incident at about 12:43 p.m. Wednesday under the tent at University Town Center. Three trauma patients were sent to Sarasota Memorial. One patient was sent to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and another to Blake Medical Center.

Doctor Alan Brockhurst, of Sarasota Memorial,  at 3 p.m. reported that one performer is in the operating room and two others are in the ICU. Most of the injuries are orthopedic, however, one is a traumatic brain injury.  

The performers were 20 to 25 feet high when they lost their balance. 

In 1962, two high-wire performers with the Flying Wallendas fell to their deaths while performing a 7-person pyramid in Detroit.

The circus is scheduled to open Friday night. Reis said the circus will announce if that changes, however, "the show must go on."

"Circus people are resilient. The show must go on," reiterated Reis. "They'll be back on their feet in a few months."

"Wallenda is the most famous name in circus history, Nik and his family," Reis said. "Nik was at the rear of pyramid and did not fall off the wire. He was the anchor at the back of the pyramid."

In 1962, two high-wire circus act performers fell to their deaths in Detroit while performing a 7-person pyramid across the tightrope.

The act was founded by Nik's great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, who died in 1978 Puerto Rico when he was crossing between two building. He was 73.