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Circus Thanks Providence For Support After Aerial Performance Accident

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Several performers were hurt in the circus accident May 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Alexander Wood)

Several performers were hurt in the circus accident May 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Alexander Wood)

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBS/AP) — The parent company of The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus sent an open letter Friday to the people of Providence, first responders and medical teams, thanking them for their support after an accident during an aerial performance there last Sunday injured eight acrobats.

The letter reads in part: “From the bottom of our hearts, all of us at Feld Entertainment want to thank you for the overwhelming care and positive energy you’ve focused on our circus family in the days following the unfortunate accident that occurred during a performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS this past Sunday afternoon. We are deeply touched by the kind thoughts that have been shared.”

The women acrobats were injured during a stunt Sunday in Providence in which they hung by their hair from a frame as a “human chandelier.” A clip securing the frame to the rafters snapped, sending the eight women plummeting about 20 feet to the ground.

The Feld family, which owns Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, said they planned to return to Providence next year.

“Feld Entertainment events visit Providence several times a year, and we have a long history within the community.  Now more than ever, Providence will hold a special place in our hearts.  We deeply appreciate your continued thoughts, prayers and support, and we look forward to bringing Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey back to Providence next year and for many years to come.”

The circus opened in Hartford Thursday with a rousing ovation for the group of acrobats injured during the aerial performance in Rhode Island.

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson addressed the accident as he spoke to fans on Thursday shortly after the circus opened its eight-show run in Connecticut’s capital. He expressed gratitude to the circus crew and first responders, and thanked the crowd for its support.

“Our young ladies are recovering, they’re in great spirits,” he said as the crowd roared with approval. “They want us to let you know, and I quote, they feel your prayers, they feel your thoughts, they feel your concerns.”

Thursday’s show went off without incident.

Seven acrobats remain hospitalized Friday, two in serious condition. Doctors have said two of the women have spinal cord injuries and only time will tell if they will ever walk again. One acrobat was released Tuesday.

During a news conference before Thursday’s performance, Feld Entertainment spokesman Stephen Payne said federal health and safety inspectors and circus officials have not identified why that clip failed. Nicole Feld, executive vice president of Feld Entertainment, said the aerial stunt won’t be replaced in the act at this time.

“We’ll look and see how the recovery process goes,” she said.

As the circus officials spoke, lionesses, tigers and a leopard could be heard roaring and growling in an area behind a curtain.

Asked if a net might be used in the future, Payne said that because the act went up and down, “We’re not entirely sure a net would have really added any safety feature.”

Payne said the margin for safety for the performance was satisfactory. “We feel that our safety standards are impeccable,” he said.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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