An aerialist’s shocking death following a 20-foot fall during a performance in Florida has put the spotlight on Cirque du Soleil and its performer tragedies in recent years.
The bright-light, award-winning theatrical production company is known for its themed shows and death-defying acrobatics. But at times, Cirque du Soleil has toed the line between stunts and safety issues, and in recent years the Canada-based company has been marred by a string of performer deaths and injuries.
Yann Arnaud, 38, died following Saturday’s performance of "VOLTA," after he tried out a new act in front of a Tampa. Fla., crowd for the first time and his hand slipped off the double rings, sending him plunging to the ground.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL AERIALIST WHO PLUNGED TO HIS DEATH WAS TRYING NEW ACT FOR THE FIRST TIME
He isn’t the first performer to perish in front of a crowd, and some people feel the organization should be doing more to keep its staff safe.
Social media users slammed the company, highlighting past safety issues.
One user wrote, “Cirque de Soleil definitely does not value their artists. HOW IS IT POSSIBLE that they don't provide their staff with a safety net? The is not the first time this has happened!”
Another wrote, “Enough is enough. How much longer will we tolerate entertainment that puts its participants in grave danger? Cirque du Soleil, the NFL, where does it end?”
One more chimed in, “How many more of these @Cirque people have to fall to their death?!?!!! It’s like a constant thing at this point and it’s absolutely disgusting...”
Another added, “This is just awful. And it is not the first person to die in a Cirque show. Perhaps they need to rethink things?”
Back in 2013, Cirque du Soleil faced a similarly appalling tragedy when 31-year-old Sarah Guyard-Guillot plummeted 94 feet to her death during a performance of the theater company’s “KA” in Las Vegas.
A horrified audience watched as she was hoisted up the side of the stage and appeared to slip free of her safety wire. She initially dangled helplessly, before descending to her death. 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.
The Wall Street Journal reported in April 2015 that Cirque du Soleil reformed its safety procedures after a series of injuries occurred at “KA,” a show that has been part of the company’s Las Vegas residency since 2004. According to WSJ, “KA” had a much higher-than-normal injury rate as of 2012 – with 56.2 per 100 workers on the show.
“It forced us to review the way we work,” Nicolas Panet-Raymond told WSJ back in 2015 of Guillot-Guyard’s death. Panet-Raymond was the Occupational Health and Safety Director of Cirque du Soleil through September 2016. He’s currently the company’s Senior Director of Global Specialized Services, according to his LinkedIn profile.
After Guyard-Guillot’s death, Cirque du Soleil changed its policies to require near-accidents to be reported, spurring internal investigations into the causes.
However, the changes have clearly not eliminated all dangers.
In November 2016, former Olympian Lisa Skinner lost her grip during a solo aerial hoops act in and fell about 16 feet to the floor. She had to be put in a neck brace before being transported to the hospital.
Just two days after Skinner’s accident crew member Olivier Rochette died after he was hit by a telescopic lift as he set up for of “Luzia” in San Francisco.
And accidents have happened during practice as well. In 2009, Cirque du Soleil had its first-ever fatality when 24-year-old Oleksandr Zhurov died after he fell backward on a Russian swing contraption that launches acrobats up to 30 feet into the air, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Following Arnaud’s death, Cirque du Soleil issued a statement saying the organization was “gathering more information” about the cause of the aerialist’s death as police also investigate the incident.