The death of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat following a fall during a performance of "Ka" on Saturday shocked audience members at the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas. The Times reported that some in the audience saw Sarah Guillot-Guyard, 31, fall to her death near the end of the show after she apparently lost her balance or grip from her position dangling high above the stage.
Cirque founder Guy Laliberte said in a statement that he wishes "to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated with this news."
Although mishaps are infrequent for Cirque, the company has had a handful of accidents over the years.
Saturday's fatality wasn't the first on-the-job death for Cirque: In 2009, a performer died after he fell off a trampoline during training at one of the company's Montreal facilities. Oleksandr Zhurov, who was 24 and hailed from Ukraine, died from head injuries sustained in the accident.
The death of Guillot-Guyard on Saturday came just a few days after an accident at another Cirque show in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, a performer in "Michael Jackson: One" at the Mandalay Bay reportedly fell from a position dangling above the stage during a preview performance and had to be taken away in a wheelchair. The name of the injured performer, who is expected to recover, has not been released.
Cirque acrobats perform their aerial stunts with few if any safety equipment, though nets and pads are sometimes used for the more complicated stunts.
The long-running "Zumanity" in Las Vegas has had its share of unfortunate accidents. In 2007, two performers were reportedly hurt when one of them lost her grip during a stunt and fell to the floor along with her partner. Both performers survived the fall. In a separate incident, a Cirque performer sued the company for injuries sustained during rehearsals for the show in 2006.
The traveling show "Corteo" experienced a mishap in 2008 when one of its acrobats fell to the stage during a performance in Portland, Ore. The female performer reportedly was hanging on to a chandelier above the stage when she lost her grip.
Injuries have also been reported at "La Nouba", the long-running Cirque show at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Cirque has experienced financial difficulty in recent months, having laid off 400 employees, or 8% of its global workforce, this year. Its show "Iris" at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles closed in January, much earlier than expected, because of weak ticket sales.