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 company said on Sunday.
The incident occurred on Saturday night when 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 at a nearby hospital.
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.”
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.
“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 the last two shows of Volta planned for Tampa on Sunday have been canceled.
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 U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Reporting by Letitia Stein in Detroit; Additional rpeorting by Jon Herskovitz in Austion, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler