A veteran Cirque du Soleil aerial acrobat fell some 50 feet to her death in Las Vegas Saturday night as a horrified crowd watched, in the famed 30-year-old show’s first death during a performance.
Sarah Guyard-Guillot, 31, who was born in Paris and had been an acrobat since she was very young, fell during the company’s “Ka” show at the MGM Grand. Witnesses said she was being hoisted up the side of the stage when she appeared to slip free of her safety wire. She initially dangled helplessly, before plummeting to her death, witnesses said.
"You could hear people crying and all the actors were pretty much looking down," Asit Govil, who watched Saturday's show with his sister-in-law Ritu Govil, told KVVU-Fox 5. “When I saw the person falling, I thought, most probably there's a net down there. Obviously I realized very soon that wasn't the case," said Govil.
"You could hear the sobs and the crying of the artists, crying for their fellow artist," said Ritu Govil.
Dan Mosqueda of Colorado Springs, Colo., told the Las Vegas Sun the woman plummeted into an open pit below the performers.
"Initially, a lot of people in the audience thought it was part of the (show)," he told the newspaper. "But you could hear screaming, then groaning, and we could hear a female artist crying from the stage."
The show momentarily continued, then stopped. Minutes after the accident, a recorded announcement informed audience members that refunds or vouchers to future shows would be offered, and the crowd was dismissed.
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte issued a statement Sunday praising Guyard-Guillot and saying performances of "Ka" have been canceled until further notice.
Guyard-Guillot, a mother of two children, had been with the original cast of "Ka" since 2006, and had been an acrobatic performer for over 20 years.
"I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated," Laliberte said. "We are reminded with great humility and respect how extraordinary our artists are each and every night. Our focus now is to support each other as a family."
The MGM Grand also issued a statement concerning the accident.
"Our company is deeply saddened by the loss of one of the talented KA artists Saturday night," it reads. "The thoughts and prayers of our employees are with the performer's family, the cast of KA, and the entire Cirque family during this difficult time."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.