In 30 years of sending acrobats soaring across stages, Cirque du Soleil never had an on-stage fatality — until now.
Nevada OSHA and the local coroner’s office are investigating the death of a 31-year-old performer in the show Ka at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 30.
Eyewitnesses say Sarah Guyard-Guillot fell at least 50 feet to a pit below the stage which was out of the audience’s view. However, her cries and moans could be heard throughout the hushed theater after her fall. She was pronounced dead later in the evening at a local hospital.
The incident happened toward the end of the show. As Guyard-Guillot ascended to the top of the stage, she slipped free of her safety wire and dropped to the pit below, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
In the final act, Ka performers wear harnesses that are clipped to cables. Guyard-Guillot was reportedly still in her harness when she fell.
Cirque is cooperating with Nevada OSHA and local authorities in the investigation.
“Our priority is to find out how this happened. We have to know exactly what failed so we and OSHA can make recommendations on what should be done and how to prevent this from happening again,” said John Fudenberg of the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
While Guyard-Guillot was the first Cirque performer to be killed in an onstage incident, she wasn’t the first to die while working for the company. In 2009, an acrobat was killed in a trampoline incident during training for a Cirque show.
This was also the second Cirque incident in Las Vegas in one week. On June 26, a performer in Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay suffered a mild concussion after slipping through the slack rope, missing the protective pad below and landing hard on the stage. That performer is expected to return to the show.
In 2011, federal OSHA issued $12,600 in fines to 8 Legged Productions, the production company for the Broadway show, Spiderman. The fines came after four performers, who were suspended above stages by cables, suffered on-stage injuries.
In the days before the two incidents, safety had been a big topic in Las Vegas. More than 4,000 safety professionals attended the American Society of Safety Engineers Safety 2013 conference in Las Vegas from June 24-27.