A federal investigation is being launched into a freak accident that took place at a performance on Sunday of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Providence, R.I., that resulted in the injury of nine performers.

Eight female performers plummeted to the ground during a matinee show after the rigging that had suspended them in mid-air by their hair suddenly collapsed. A ninth performer on the ground is believed to have been injured as a result of the accident.

There were no deaths following Sunday's accident but a few of the performers were severely injured, said the circus company. Two performers were in critical condition and three others were in serious condition, according to a report from Reuters.

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the circus troupe, said in a statement posted on its website that "all performers in the act received immediate medical attention and were transported to a local hospital for further care." 

The company said that an "investigation has begun into the cause of the accident, and no further details are available at this time." Performances scheduled for Monday have been called off.

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were expected to start investigating the case on Monday. The accident occurred at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., and the production was called "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Legends."

The collapse of the rigging took place about 40 minutes into the show, which had begun at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Published reports have stated that the performers fell 35 to 40 feet. Videos that appear to show the accident have been circulating online and can be viewed here. (The video images may be disturbing for some viewers.)