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Five performers injured in high-wire act fall in Sarasota

<p>Several high-wire walkers were hurt during practice in Sarasota. WTSP photo</p>

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A tragic high-wire circus act in Sarasota sent five performers to the hospital and two are in critical condition Wednesday night. They were practicing an eight-person pyramid that included Nik Wallenda and his crew.

Circus officials say Wallenda did not fall and was not hurt.

The accident happened at Circus Sarasota next to the University Town Center mall off of Interstate 75. The tragedy comes two days before the opening weekend of Circus Sarasota’s “Synergy” show at the Big Top running through March 5.

“Circus artists sometimes compare themselves to Nascar Formula 1 drivers pushing the limits,” says Pedro Reis, CEO of the Circus Conservatory.

That’s what famous aerialist Nik Wallenda and seven others were doing Wednesday afternoon practicing the final pyramid act for Circus Sarasota about 20-25 feet above ground -- one of the highest on record.

“Not the first time they’ve done it … did it flawlessly yesterday,” says Reis.

But this time the pyramid came apart sending five people to the ground.

Reis says, “They lost their balance. It’s all about balance on the high wire. … Nothing to do with the rigging.

The rigging did not collapse, only the poles came down the balancing poles in their hands and shoulder bars. The rigging did not collapse.”

Reis says Wallenda was on the wire in the back anchoring the pyramid. As for the others injuries, “thank God no one was seriously hurt or crippled.”

Wallenda told 10News WTSP last month about putting together a possible record-breaking pyramid act for Circus Sarasota winter production as the featured act.

“It will be big and exciting,” Wallenda said last month from Sarasota.

Wallenda says taking risks is what circus artists do. He says, “We take the impossible and make it possible it’s the lure of the risk and the danger of what we do.”

“I’m sure Nik Wallenda want to get up on high wire as a true circus artist,” says Reis. He adds, “Circus people are resilient. … The show must go on.”

Circus Sarasota opens Friday and runs through March 5. Reis says they will have another act in its place.
Circus officials say all the people injured are expected to recover.

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