Authorities say a Cirque du Soleil performer who fell during a performance in Tampa has died.
The horrifying drop happened Saturday night during the company’s production of VOLTA at Under the Big Top on Nebraska Avenue.
A spokesman for Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group says Yann Arnaud, a long-time aerialist, was performing the aerial straps number when he fell onto the stage.
Arnaud was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he later died, a hospital spokeswoman confirms.
“The entire Cirque du Soleil family is in shock and devastated by this tragedy. Yann had been with us for over 15 years and was loved by all who had the chance to know him,” said President and CEO Daniel Lamarre. “Over the coming days and weeks, our focus will be on supporting Yann’s family and our employees, especially the VOLTA team, as we go through these difficult times together.”
A spokesman for the company says they are offering their “full and transparent collaboration” as authorities investigate what happened.
Julian Martinez was in the audience when the performer fell. He says he can’t get the incident out of his mind.
“I saw the performer visibly straining to hold onto the rope,” Martinez said. “I saw the two acrobats exchanging glances beforehand and I don’t know if one was trying to see if the other was OK.”
Martinez tells News Channel 8 as soon as the performer fell, he knew it wasn’t good.
“It was awful, you heard all the cries of the audience. There were children there and they were freaking out,” he said.
“Everyone rushed to the stage really quickly, they wanted to see what happened to him,” Martinez added. “After about five minutes, the Cirque officials got on the loudspeaker and told us to leave.”
Cirque du Soleil had two more VOLTA performances scheduled for Sunday, the final two shows in Tampa. Both have been canceled.
The company says all ticket purchases through the website or call center will be automatically refunded. Customers who purchased tickets through partners of Cirque can contact the seller for a refund.