Cirque du Soleil fined in death of acrobat at Las Vegas show

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 30, 2013 7:02 PM

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) - Cirque du Soleil has been fined more than $25,000 for safety violations in connection with a fatal accident in which an acrobat dropped 94 feet to her death during a mid-air battle scene during the show "KA" in Las Vegas in June, Nevada officials said on Wednesday.

Concluding a four-month investigation into the fatal fall of Paris native Sarah Guillot-Guyard, the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued six citations, totaling $25,235, to Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, which describes its shows as "a dramtic mix of circus arts and street entertainment."

Guillot-Guyard died after falling in the final scene of the performance, in which the stage is vertical and performers engage in mid-air battle while wearing safety harnesses attached to a cable.

The 31-year-old performer had been in the midst of the scene when she began to quickly ascend as part the act, Nevada OSHA said. As she moved upward, the wire rope attaching her to a safety harness scraped against suspension equipment and was detached.

"The wire rope was severed due to the rapid ascent of the performer, ultimately causing the rope to be freed from the sheave/pulley and scraping against a shear point," the agency said.

Cirque du Soleil was fined for violations including inadequate equipment training for Guillot-Guyard, and a circus fall protection program that did not match state safety standards, Nevada OSHA said.

Nevada OSHA also penalized the Las Vegas MGM Grand, where the show was performed, $7,000 for exposing its employees to workplace hazards, including onstage open-sided floors and pyrotechnic dust used for Cirque du Soleil performances.

Both Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts, the owner of the Las Vegas MGM Grand, said in separate statements that they would appeal the rulings.

Cirque spokesman Renée-Claude Menard said in a statement that the company had completed an exhaustive review of its safety policies and procedures after the accident.

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"Safety always has been the top priority for Cirque du Soleil, its performers and crew members," Menard said.

Alan Feldman, executive vice president of MGM Resorts, said in a statement that safety was a top priority for his company as well.

The companies have 15 days from the time they were notified of the citations to appeal the rulings with OSHA staff or its board, Nevada OSHA spokeswoman Teri Williams said on Wednesday. Williams said the groups were given notice sometime last week.

Guillot-Guyard, a mother of two young children, had been part of the cast of "KA" since 2006. She was the first performer to die during a show in Cirque du Soleil's 29-year history, a Cirque spokesman said shortly after the accident.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)