The footage is shocking: Eight acrobats performing the 'human chandelier' act plummet to the ground, landing on another performer in front of an audience in Rhode Island.
"It is really gut-wrenching. It is shocking, it is. Personally, this is also my circus family; I see more of them than my own family, so it just breaks your heart because I know each one of them," said Melinda Hartline of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Hartline told FOX 13 it is has been an emotional 24 hours.
"Each of the performers are very confident in what they do. They are the best of the best from around the world and it's important we trust their judgment and their abilities," she continued.
The human chandelier act practiced in Tampa at the state fairgrounds before touring.
"All of the safety and equipment are checked double checked and triple checked," she said.
They performed 10 to 12 times a week since January.
"When I saw it, right away, my heart started pounding," offered famed wire-walker Nik Wallenda.
Nik Wallenda knows all too well the dangers of performing as a sky walker. His great-grandfather Karl Wallenda fell to his death in San Juan, Puerto Rico; his wire support was not properly put up .
"When it's rigging failure, there's a good enough chance it could have been prevented, but again I wasn't there and stuff happens. Accidents are called accidents because they are out of our control," he said.
While investigators continue looking into a clamp that may have snapped, Wallenda said accidents like this one make him push harder for regulations.
"It's hard on a show. I toured with Ringling Brothers in 2007, 2008. We did about 800 shows in two years. That's a lot of shows. You get complacent to the point where you're like. 'that's OK, we did it last week' and that's where it gets very dangerous."
As investigators look into what went wrong, Wallenda said it leaves an even great impression on him.
"Anytime we see something like this, it affects all of us, mentally, if anything else, because it could have been one of us," he added.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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