Ringling Bros. Circus returns to Providence year after tragic accident


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The circus is back in Providence.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus returned to Rhode Island this week for a four-day run beginning on Thursday. The return comes nearly one year after a tragic hair-hanging fall left several performers injured.

The accident at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center happened when a carabiner clip suspending the performers snapped.

Stephen Payne, of Feld Entertainment, says the circus now gets their carabiners from a different company– and that each act is accompanied by a safety checklist.

“We really have re-doubled our efforts to make sure that it’s safe for our performers, our crew and our audience,” Payne told Eyewitness News.

According to Payne, the show this year is much different than in previous years — and he says the performers and crew members are also different.

But Payne says there was never a question of whether the circus would come back to Rhode Island’s capital city again.

“We’ve been coming to Providence for decades. Like I said, Ringling Bros. is a year older than baseball — it’s an American tradition that people expect every year and we wanted to come back again this year,” he said. “This sort of provides closure.”

Another piece of closure — Ringling Bros. recently reached a settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We agreed for certain safety changes and to pay the fine that they levied. And as a result of that we can continue to move forward and continue to do what we do best, which is bringing family entertainment to audiences around the country,” Payne said.

Since the accident, the hair-hang act has been removed from the circus.

The creator of the act told the Providence Journal that two of the injured performers are still unable to walk. One of the performers involved in the accident has returned to the circus — but she will not return to Providence.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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