Cirque du Soleil aerialist plunges to death during Florida show

Yann Arnaud fell to his death while performing in a Cirque du Soleil show in Tampa, Florida on March 17, 2018.
Yann Arnaud fell to his death while performing in a Cirque du Soleil show in Tampa, Florida on March 17, 2018.PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM TWITTER, YANNARNOPHOTO/INSTAGRAM
Aerialist Yann Arnaud fell during a performance on March 17, 2018.
Aerialist Yann Arnaud fell during a performance on March 17, 2018.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/YANN ARNAUD

MIAMI (AFP/ REUTERS) - An aerialist fell to his death while performing in a Cirque du Soleil show in Tampa, Florida, the Montreal-based company said Sunday (March 18).

Yann Arnaud, 38, was suspended by straps above the stage during a performance of its VOLTA show on Saturday (March 17) night when he fell, according to a statement.

He was rushed to a hospital but died of his injuries.

"The entire Cirque du Soleil family is in shock and devastated by this tragedy. Yann had been with us for over 15 years and was loved by all who had the chance to know him," the company's president Daniel Lamarre said.

Two remaining shows scheduled for Tampa were cancelled after the accident.

The statement added: "We are currently gathering more information about this tragic event. We are offering our full and transparent collaboration to the authorities as they look into the circumstances of this accident."

Arnaud had been performing in Cirque shows for 15 years and was considered one of the company’s most experienced entertainers, president and CEO Daniel Lamarre said in a telephone interview. 

“We were very surprised, considering his experience, that something like that happened,” said Lamarre, speaking from Tampa, where he had flown to be with the show’s cast. “I cannot describe to you how the people feel. It’s terrible.”

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING CONTENT 

The death is the third fatality involving a Cirque performer in the company’s 34 years, said Lamarre, adding that the aerial strap act is seen as a relatively safe number. 

“It was awful. You heard all the cries of the audience. There were children there and they were freaking out,” spectator Julian Martinez, who witnessed the accident, told local TV station WFLA. 

Lamarre said he could not share further details about the incident involving Arnaud, a husband and father of two young children.

Just hours before he went on stage, Arnaud posted a photo on Instagram to announce that his straps duo act with Pawel Walczewski will make its debut at the show. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BgZzawoASiI/

Local media reports said Arnaud appeared to lose his grip on a strap and fell, bringing the show to an immediate halt.

Tampa police said the incident is under investigation by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In 2013 French acrobat Sarah Guillot-Guyard died after plunging from a high-wire in front of a horrified crowd at a Las Vegas show.

The 31-year-old mother-of-two fell from a height of around 50 feet (15 meters) as she was being hoisted up toward the roof of the stage on a wire for a battle scene in the show.

In 2009, Ukrainian acrobat Olexandre Jourov, 24, died from a fall during a rehearsal in Montreal.