View Full Version : Circus Performer Dies After 30-Foot Fall

24-05-04, 18:59
ST. PAUL, Minn. (May 24) - Police are investigating the death of a performer who fell around 30 feet onto a concrete floor during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show.

Dessi Espana, 32, was twirling on long chiffon scarves when the silky cloth gave way during Saturday's performance at the Xcel Energy Center, witnesses said. She died later that night.


Police did not suspect foul play, but the city's licensing department would likely determine whether there were any violations and why a net was not in place. A city statute requires a net.

''Investigators are looking at that, but just because there is a law on the books does not mean that a criminal prosecution is going to ensue,'' said Paul Schnell, a St. Paul police spokesman. ''It appears that this is a terrible tragedy. We are not actively pursuing a criminal investigation.''

It was the first fatal accident in a Ringling Bros. circus in at least a decade, spokesman Mark Riddell said Sunday.

''The nature of aerial performance entails calculated risks, and our safety record is a very good one over the course of 134 years,'' Riddell said, adding that the circus was opening its own investigation.

Espana was not using a safety harness because of the way she had to move in the performance, and chiffon acts traditionally don't use nets, Riddell said.

James Honerman, a spokesman for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said his office will not conduct an investigation.

''This type of risk is part of the act,'' he said. ''This is part of the routine they do. It does not fit the typical OSHA fatality.''

Shaken witnesses, who included many children, described the scene: Espana was upside-down, hanging by her legs when a scarf loosened and she plunged to the arena floor.

Some witnesses said Espana landed headfirst; others said she landed on her back or stomach.

Clowns came out in what circusgoers described as an attempt to draw attention away from the scene.

''A little girl behind us asked, 'Is she still alive?' '' said Kim Golembeck, of Big Lake, whose 3-year-old son didn't realize there had been an accident.

The 2 1/2-hour show continued as medical personnel and circus officials worked on Espana, who comes from a family of Bulgarian performers.

Laurie Burnham left after the accident with her 10- and 12-year-old daughters.

''They were really distraught, especially because the ringmaster started up again like nothing had happened,'' said Burnham, of St. Paul.

Espana and fellow performer Ivan Espana, from a Mexican family of performers, got married years ago during a show, according to circus promotional material. Their two children are in training to become circus performers.

The circus' Saturday night and Sunday shows went on as planned.

''The show must go on,'' said circus spokeswoman Alexis Copeland.

Last month, there were two accidents in three days when the Ringling Bros. circus performed in New York's Madison Square Garden. One man fell 30 feet from a trapeze into a net. Another slipped off a high wire. Both had minor injuries. Signs outside the venue had promoted the circus with the slogan, ''Tempting fate daily.''

Circus animal acts have also proved dangerous. Last October, Roy Horn of ''Siegfried & Roy,'' was severely mauled on stage by a tiger, forcing an end to the duo's long-running Las Vegas show.

05-24-04 07:18 EDT

24-05-04, 19:25
What did she fell on?

24-05-04, 19:37
Originally posted by TR-Player:
What did she fell on?onto a concrete floor. Poor lady. I really don't like those kind of jobs. they are too risky as you can see with this case, she died, so, i don't like it.

24-05-04, 19:44
Oh :( She was so beautiful...

24-05-04, 20:46
I don't know what some performers are trying to prove by not using a net.

24-05-04, 20:47
But soooo stupid. Why on earth wasn't she using a net? So sad. :(

24-05-04, 23:22
Originally posted by Celli:
I don't know what some performers are trying to prove by not using a net.Same thing some climbers are trying to prove without using any safety gear.

25-05-04, 02:40
Except that climbers don't perform in front of thousands of people each day who will see them die if something goes wrong.

25-05-04, 04:09
True, she was doing it for money...

25-05-04, 08:38
You take the risk, you pay the price.

25-05-04, 10:58
She was very purdy. I really admire such artists, but I do find it dumb, that she didn't use a net... :(