The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is responsible for a May incident in which a chandelier-like apparatus carrying eight acrobats fell to the ground during a show in Rhode Island, U.S. regulators said in findings released on Tuesday that seek to fine the circus' owner.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the company had improperly loaded the steel clamp that held the rigging for the "hang-hang" act, in which performers were held aloft by their hair. Their fall during a daytime performance at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, shocked a crowd of about 3,900 people that included many children.
The safety agency said it had proposed a $7,000 fine on the company that owns the circus, Feld Entertainment Inc, which it noted was the maximum allowed by law.
The clamp, also called a carabineer, failed after Feld attached two rings to its bottom, rather than just one, causing it to have three stress points rather than the two it was designed for and overloading it, OSHA said.
"While the $7,000 penalty is the maximum allowable by law, we can never put a price on the impact this event had on these workers and their families," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Employers must take steps to ensure this does not happen again."
Steve Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, said the company had received OSHA's citation but took issue with some of the findings.
"We do agree that we will change how a carabineer of that nature is loaded," he said. "We don't necessarily agree that it was overloaded, because it was rated to hold over 10,000 pounds but was holding only a fraction of that."
In addition to the eight performers injured when the chandelier fell, a ninth circus employee on the ground was struck by the falling rigging.
A month after the accident, one of the performers injured in the drop told reporters she still had "nightmares" about the experience.