By MICHELLE R. SMITH, Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Seven of the eight hair-hanging circus acrobats who fell to the floor during a “human chandelier” stunt in Providence last month have hired a Chicago-based law firm to represent them, the firm announced Monday.
The women were injured during a May 4 performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the apparatus from which they were suspended fell, sending them plummeting about 20 feet.
Lawyer Michael Krzak of Clifford Law Offices said the firm was recently hired and had not filed a lawsuit, but it is conducting an in-depth investigation into what happened. He said the firm plans to make available four of the injured acrobats to speak at a news conference Tuesday at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, although that number could change depending on their conditions.
While one of the acrobats, Samantha Pitard, was released from the hospital within days, some have severe injuries, and doctors have said it’s not clear whether two with spinal cord injuries will walk again. The law firm said some of the women are undergoing physical therapy. Some are still using wheelchairs and it’s unknown to what extent they will regain the full use of their limbs. Some of the women require more surgery.
When asked about their conditions and where they are seeking treatment, Krzak called it a “fluid situation” and said they’re often in and out of facilities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
“They’re going wherever they need to go to get the care they need,” he said.
Pitard, 23, a native of Champaign, Illinois, is among the seven who hired the law firm, according to a firm spokeswoman. Krzak said the eighth acrobat had hired a local lawyer because of what he termed a personal decision. He said he expected he would work together with that lawyer.
The other injured acrobats are from Brazil, Bulgaria and Ukraine.
Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, said the women are still covered by the company’s health insurance but he did not know details about their conditions because the families had asked for privacy.
Providence police have said they suspect a 4- to 5-inch steel carabiner clip at the top of the apparatus snapped. It was found in three pieces on the ground with its spine snapped.
Police turned the clip and the results of their investigation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, where investigators said they were still probing the accident as of Monday.
Krzak said the firm has sent a letter to OSHA, Feld and others telling them to preserve evidence. They have not yet seen the carabiner, cable or mechanism that suspended the women, he said.
He said they also haven’t spoken with Andrey Medeiros, who with his wife, Viktoriya, designed the act, about the mechanism or how it works. Viktoriya Medeiros was among the injured.
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