5 injured in high wire accident; They’re ‘lucky to be alive,’ doctors say

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Five people who were practicing for an upcoming show were injured when they fell off a high wire in Sarasota on Thursday. At least two of the injured are members of the Wallenda family.

Eight people were on the high wire at the time of the accident, including Nik Wallenda. The performers were practicing a human pyramid act when one person lost their balance, causing the others to fall. Nik Wallenda was serving as an anchor on the pyramid but did not fall off.r-circus-fall-2-web_bkg_tex

“It’s a very difficult trick, obviously, there’s eight persons involved, and it’s obviously a lot of momentum involved, and if somebody loses a balance, then something can go wrong,” said Circus Arts Conservatory CEO Pedro Reis.

Firefighters responded to the call around 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

Four patients were transported to a local hospital, their conditions were classified as “trauma alerts.” The four patients suffered substantial injuries, according to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. Three of the trauma patients were transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. One trauma patient was transported to Blake Medical Center. A fifth patient was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

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At least two patients are in critical condition, and one is in guarded condition.

Doctors expect all of them to survive, but said they are lucky to be alive considering how far they fell.

“There’s no fatalities, and I’m sure they’ll be back on their feet in a few months. Thank God,” said Reis.

The five people who were injured fell 20 to 25 feet from a high wire at the Circus Sarasota, which is located near Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, according to a Sarasota Fire Rescue spokesperson.

Nik Wallenda was not injured, according to DSW Entertainment spokesperson Winston Simone

“Nik was on the wire and I spoke to him and he was fine. Waiting for updates, but hospital visits are precautionary,” said Simone. “The extent of injuries is unknown, but early indications are nothing serious, thankfully,” he added.

Jennifer Michael, managing director of Circus Sarasota, provided an update Wednesday afternoon.

Michael said no one suffered life-threatening injuries during the accident and all will make a full recovery.

Names and extent of the victim’s injuries are not yet being released.

Pedro Reis, who is the CEO of the Sarasota Circus Arts Conservatory said the acrobats have been practicing for an upcoming performance on Feb. 10.

“They did it flawlessly yesterday,” said Reis. “Unfortunately, accidents happen.”

Reis said the acrobats lost their balance. There was not a problem with the rigging, the rigging did not collapse.

“Our hearts go out to everybody,” said Reis, who also said, “The show must go on.”

Firefighters responded to the call around 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

No other details about the accident have been released.

The group of acrobats was to perform in Circus Sarasota’s SYNERGY, billed as a “circus experience beyond compare.” SYNERGY is scheduled to run from Feb. 10 through early March at the Big Top located in Nathan Benderson Park behind the Mall at University Town Center.

Nik Wallenda, who is from Sarasota, is billed as the SYNERGY headliner. “Here, in his hometown of Sarasota, he will thrill audiences with a new awe-inspiring and historic performance atop the high wire,” said a press release promoting the upcoming performances.

Nik Wallenda has performed daredevil acts at Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, the skyscrapers of Chicago and at the Orlando Eye.

Michael said the Wallendas have never used a safety net in their act.

She also said performances are to go on as scheduled and the circus will open on Friday.

Stay with WFLA.com for updates about this story.


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