The 7 Worst Circus Accidents

Monday, May 05, 2014


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This weekend's accident that circus events can sometimes turn tragic - see the list of some of the worst accidents in US history.


Related Slideshow: Biggest Circus Accidents in History

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7.  Roanoke Virginia Motorcycle Accident

In February of this year a motorcyclist was badly injured when he lost control of his bike and crashed into a wall at the Civic Center. He was hospitalized with serious injuries.  Julian Gomez was in critical condition.
The injured rider sparked concern others, according to
"Hello everybody, we need some help for a Colombian guy who was doing a motocross freestyle show in Roanoke and had an accident and is actually in coma. His family is here, but it doesn't have transportation. We would like to see if somebody has a cheap car that they can use to go to the hospital (they have us drive license) you can also help with money. If you can help, contact me here or at 5407984479."
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6. Mary the Elephant

In 1916, an elephant named Mary killed her handler Red Eldridge. It sparked a media firestorm and there are various accounts of what led to the attack—"from Eldridge prodding Mary with a stick and infuriating her, to speculation that she was simply bored."
Eldridge’s death was tragic and gruesome and the elephant Mary’s was equally gruesome. According to press reports,  a crowd of 2,500 people gathered and Mary was hung from the neck by an industrial crane. 
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5.  Flying Wallendas

The Flying Wallendas are the most storied tight-ropers in performance history. 
The old circus family that consisted of Karl, his wife Helen Kreis, his brother Herman, and numerous other family members.  Karl Wallenda pioneered an act called the Seven-Person Chair Pyramid, in which seven people balanced on tightropes (and a chair) thirty-two feet in the air without the use of safety nets.
The Wallendas were undoubtedly excellent acrobats and daredevils; but in 1962, their act went horribly wrong. The lead man faltered, and three people crashed to the ground. Karl Wallenda’s son-in-law, Richard Faughnan, and Wallenda’s nephew, Dieter Schepp, were both killed. Wallenda’s adopted son, Mario, was paralyzed from the waist down.
On March 22, 1978, during a promotional walk in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Karl Wallenda fell from the wire and died. It was between the towers of Condado Plaza Hotel, 10 stories high. He was 73. Nik Wallenda completed the walk on June 4, 2011, with his mother, Delilah.
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4. Dessi Espana

Another Ringling Brothers acrobat that suffered a serious accident and was killed. In 2004, Dessi Espana was a Bulgarian-American who came from a family of performers.  She had performed for years and even held a Guinness World Record. Unfortunately, a technical failure. Espana was performing an aerial act with chiffon scarves when a mechanism holding the cloth in place failed, and she fell thirty feet, head-first. Espana later died from her injuries.
According to a Feld Entertainment statement, Dessi Espana, 32, a star performer in the Hometown Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, was critically injured during a matinee performance on Saturday, May 22nd at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was immediately taken to Regions Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at approximately 10:20 p.m. She is survived by her husband, Ivan, and their two children, Zore and Sian.
“I've known Dessi from the day she was born. She was a beautiful and talented young woman, a performer in our shows for decades who was beloved by everyone in our circus family” said Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Producer Kenneth Feld. “We were all so thrilled when the entire Espana troupe joined the Hometown Edition. Having such a talented family of performers involved in such a unique production made each show that much more special. Dessi will be remembered forever for touching countless hearts and bringing immeasurable joy to millions of families worldwide. Our thoughts and prayers are with the extended Espana family during this painful time.”
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3. ‪Siegfried & Roy‬ Tiger Attack

On October 3, 2003, during a show at the Mirage, Roy Horn was bitten on the neck by a 7-year-old male white tiger named Mantecore Fishbacher Horn.
Crew members separated Horn from the tiger and rushed him to the only Level I trauma center in Nevada, University Medical Center. Horn was critically injured and sustained severe blood loss.
While being taken to the hospital, Horn said, "Mantecore is a great cat. Make sure no harm comes to Mantecore."
Source: Wikipedia
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2. The Cleveland Circus Fire

According to Listverse, "There were no human fatalities in the Cleveland Circus Fire of 1942 but the fire caused the deaths of over one hundred circus animals.
A fire of unknown origin started near the menagerie tent of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Spectators and circus workers easily escaped the flames, but the fire spread so quickly, it became impossible to save all of the animals.
Nine cages—filled with lions, tigers, and zebras—burst into flames. Some animals were able to escape the blaze, but twenty-six others were so badly burned they were put down by policemen with machine guns."
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1. Hartford Circus Fire

The Hartford Circus fire was a tragic event and arguably the most well-known on our list, due to the scale of the fire and the extensive loss of life.
On July 6, 1944, a small fire began in the southwest sidewall of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey big top circus tent. Because the tent was water-proofed with paraffin wax and gasoline, the fire spread rapidly.
Understandably, the crowd of seven thousand spectators panicked and rushed towards the exits. But two of these exits were blocked by chutes used to bring in circus animals—and in the ensuing stampede, circus goers were trampled, crushed, and asphyxiated under the weight of fallen people. As the flames spread, other spectators simply burned to death, or else died as a result of smoke inhalation. In a panic, some people tried leaping from the bleachers to avoid the fire; but this attempt to escape actually killed more people than it saved.
In the end, an estimated 169 people died and more than seven hundred were injured.

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