May 6, 2014 11:30 pm

Hair-hanging circus acrobat wants to return to ring after fall

In this photo provided by Frank Caprio, performers hang during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Providence, R.I.

AP Photo/Frank Caprio

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – One of the eight circus acrobats who plummeted about 20 feet (6 metres) to the ground during a hair-hanging stunt said Tuesday she’s thankful she’s alive and wants to return to the ring.

Samantha Pitard was released from a hospital Tuesday, two days after the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus accident in Rhode Island. The others are still hospitalized.

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Pitard told The Associated Press she is the only one of the troupe who can walk on her own but the others are expected to fully recover. She said everyone is in good spirits.

READ MORE: 2 injured in circus stunt gone wrong upgraded from critical to serious condition

Pitard said all circus performers know they risk their lives during every performance and they love it enough to take that risk to make people happy. She said she wants to rejoin the tour and show the world she’s OK.

Local investigators have completed an initial probe into the circus accident and are turning over a broken clip and other material to federal workplace safety investigators.

The carabiner clip was one of several pieces at the top of a chandelier-like apparatus that was suspending the acrobats during Sunday morning’s performance before 3,900 people, many of them children.

It’s unclear why the 4- to 5-inch (11- to 13-centimetre) steel clip broke into three pieces, fire investigator Paul Doughty said. That is up to investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine.

Doughty said investigators have narrowed down the cause of the broken clip to two possibilities: a manufacturing defect or improper use. The latter could have to do with how it was installed in the rigging, he said.

The circus packed up and headed for Connecticut without the eight acrobats who were injured. When the clip snapped, the women fell to the ground, and the apparatus landed on them.

READ MORE: Acrobats fall during stunt at circus in U.S.

Relatives and rescuers said the women suffered injuries including a pierced liver, neck and back fractures, broken ankles and head injuries.

The circus inspected all of its equipment on Monday night when it loaded up in Providence and planned another inspection when it unloaded, said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company. The circus is replacing each carabiner in the show before the next performance, on Thursday in Hartford, he said. The hair act won’t be performed there, the company said.

The equipment has been used dozens of times per week since the beginning of the year, and a circus crew had installed it last week, Payne said. The crew told investigators the clip had been visually inspected before the show.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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