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Cirque du Soleil performer dies after fall during Tampa performance

Cirque du Soleil performer Yann Arnaud, left, in a photo taken from his Facebook page. Arnaud died after suffering a fall during a Tampa Cirque du Soleil performance Credit: Facebook.
Published Mar. 18, 2018

An acrobat who fell some 20 feet during a Tampa Cirque du Soleil performance Saturday night has died from his injuries.

Around 9:52 p.m. during the Saturday Volta show, veteran aerialist Yann Arnaud lost his grip on an aerial ring and fell to the stage, a video reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times showed.

At the time of the fall, Arnaud and another performer were conducting a complex routine that involved the acrobats swinging back and forth over the stage. The men, each holding onto a gymnastic ring suspended by a rope, interlocked arms as the ring ropes wound around one another. When the ropes unwound, the acrobats swung to opposite ends of the performance space. As gravity brought them back toward the center of the arena, Arnaud lost his grip and plunged to the stage.

The show immediately stopped so medical professionals could tend to the injured performer. Arnaud was transported to Tampa General Hospital, where he died early Sunday, a hospital spokeswoman confirmed.

RELATED: Cirque du Soleil aerialist who died after fall was performing act for first time, he said on Instagram

Cirque du Soleil announced in a statement Sunday that the rest of its Tampa performances would be cancelled. Volta's run at the Tampa Greyhound Track began Feb. 14 and was to end Sunday.

"The entire Cirque du Soleil family is in shock and devastated by this tragedy," Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group said in the statement. "Yann had been with us for over 15 years and was loved by all who had the chance to know him."

Cirque du Soleil added that it would further investigate the incident. The Tampa Police Department is also investigating the incident, although a department spokesman said in a statement that the fall appeared to be accidental.

An autopsy will be performed Monday by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, TPD spokesman Steve Hegarty said.

According to his Facebook profile, Arnaud, 38, was from Champigny-sur-Marne, France, and lived in Miami. Other social media posts indicated he had a wife and daughter.

Arnaud is not the first Cirque du Soleil performer to die from an injury sustained during a performance. The Canadian theater company suffered its first onstage death in 2013, when another French performer, Sarah Guillot-Guyard, 31, fell about 50 feet during a performance in Las Vegas.

Ben Ritter, 76, of Tampa, who attended Saturday's performance, said the injury was shocking. As soon as Arnaud hit the stage, he said the performer was "out cold and not moving."

When the audience was asked to leave the arena after the fall, Ritter, a retired advocate for disabled veterans, thought the show might only suffer a brief delay. But within half an hour the crowd was informed the remainder of Saturday's show was cancelled. (Audience members who purchased tickets through Cirque du Soleil were immediately refunded.)

But a refund was the least of Ritter's worries.

"I'm so concerned for that acrobat," Ritter said Sunday.

Other spectators — and one professional athlete — took to Twitter to offer their best wishes to the performer.

"Can't stop thinking about the guy who fell last night," New York Yankees outfielder Shane Robinson tweeted.

"If you're the praying type, say a few for the @Cirque performers at #Volta in Tampa tonight," an audience member, Amanda Scherer, tweeted.

Times staff writer Langston Taylor contributed to this report.

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