US acrobats injured in fall at Rhode Island circus act

The incident happened in front of a full house

Eleven people have been injured, one critically, after a group of female acrobats fell from an aerial platform at a circus in the US state of Rhode Island.

The eight acrobats plummeted about 10m (32ft) after the scaffolding structure holding them collapsed.

A circus spokesman said the performers were in the middle of a hair-hanging and motorbike high-wire act.

Performers hang during an aerial hair-hanging stunt The performers fell during an aerial hair-hanging stunt, as captured in Friday's performance

Officials say they have launched an investigation into the accident.

The accident occurred on Sunday morning during the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus show in Providence. A dancer on the ground was among those hurt.

Eleven people were taken to Rhode Island Trauma Center, where a spokesperson told the BBC that one person was in a critical condition.

Human chandelier

The acrobats were hanging from their hair, suspended in a "human chandelier" formation when the apparatus supporting them suddenly collapsed, sending them crashing to the floor below, says the BBC's Beth McLeod in Washington.

"All performers in the act received immediate medical attention and were transported to a local hospital for further care," the circus company said in a statement.

The collapse was reported to police about 45 minutes into the show. One eyewitness, 14-year-old Sydney Bragg, told the Associated Press that she thought at first it was part of the act.

"It just went crashing down. Everyone was freaking out. We heard this huge clatter and then we just heard the girls scream," she said.

According to the circus website, the eight performers, known as "hairialists", feature in a "larger-than-life act... spinning, hanging from hoops, and rolling down wrapped silks all while being suspended 35ft in the air by their hair alone".

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