FLORIDA • An experienced Cirque du Soleil performer has died after plunging onto a stage during an aerial straps routine at a weekend show in Tampa, Florida, the Montreal-based company said on Sunday.
The incident occurred last Saturday night when Mr Yann Arnaud, 38, fell during a performance of the show Volta, according to Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. The French performance artist died of his injuries after being rushed to a nearby hospital.
"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 and chief executive Daniel Lamarre said.
Mr Arnaud had been performing in Cirque shows for over 15 years and was considered one of the company's most experienced entertainers, Mr Lamarre said in a telephone interview from Tampa, where he had flown to be with the show's cast.
"We were very surprised, considering his experience, that something like that happened," he said. "I cannot describe to you how the people feel. It's terrible."
The death is the third fatality involving a performer in the company's 34 years, said Mr Lamarre, adding that the aerial straps act is seen as a relatively safe number.
Spectator Julian Martinez, who witnessed the accident, told local TV station WFLA: "It was awful. You heard all the cries of the audience. There were children there and they were freaking out."
Mr Lamarre said he could not share further details about the incident involving Mr Arnaud, who was a husband and father of two young children.
"We are offering our full and transparent collaboration to the authorities as they look into the circumstances of this accident," the company said in a statement, adding that the last two shows of Volta planned for Tampa on Sunday had been cancelled.
Local media reports said Mr 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.
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 15m as she was being hoisted up towards 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.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE