Equipment failure caused Rhode Island circus tragedy

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SARASOTA, FLA. -- The accident that caused eight acrobats to plunge to the ground during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performance in Providence, R.I. last Sunday has been attributed to an equipment failure.

Rhode Island state investigators say a piece of equipment called a D-ring or carabiner failed causing the acrobats to fall more than 30 feet to the floor, but OSHA is still investigating the accident.

A circus spokesman says safety is a top priority before and during shows.

“We have entire safety crews that are dedicated to traveling to all of our units to make sure that steps are taken. All of our equipment is inspected each and every time we load into a new arena.” said Stephen Payne.

Rick Wallenda has been performing all his life and says safety is very important during performances.

“I check my apparatus at least once a day, sometimes every show, there's some things that I check every show to make sure that they are right.”

Rick says he doesn’t want any more government involvement in the circus industry.

“We don’t want the government in our business. We regulate ourselves, we police ourselves. Accidents happen, we police ourselves. Even with government regulations accidents happen, things go wrong, on the highway, a crane operator, construction.”

But part of OSHA investigation into the accident will be to determine if the circus has enough safety precautions in place, saying in a statement: “We will provide a safe workplace for all Americans. If it evolves more regulations that is important.”

Rick says circus performers are aware of the dangers while performing and says he has fallen twice during shows.

“These nine ladies, they are joining the elite group of us who have fallen and gotten hurt, and some of them will get back up there if not all of them.”

Another famous Wallenda from Sarasota, Nik Wallenda is on record saying the circus industry should come together and work in concordance with the government to come up with safety standards.