A 31-year-old Cirque du Soleil acrobat plummeted 50 feet to her death on Saturday during the finale scene of the company's Kà show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Hers is believed to be the first stage death in Cirque du Soleil's nearly 30 year history.
The Los Angeles Times writes that audience members saw Sarah Guillot-Guyard suddenly go into a "free fall" from her position dangling in the air above a hidden catwalk, dropping down into a pit below the show's vertical stage. Spectators reported hearing screams through the music, which continued to play for a few minutes after the accident until it was silenced. The other performers paused, dangling from their own safety harnesses for several minutes until they received a message in their earpieces from the show's production.
About 10 minutes after the fall, audience members were escorted from the theater as a pre-recorded announcement offered them refunds or vouchers to a future performance (pass). Guillot-Guyard was removed to Las Vegas' University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead shortly before midnight. While a cause of death has yet to be determined, the Las Vegas Sun reports Guillot-Guyard was still wearing her safety harness when she fell, which suggests that it may have become unattached from the cable to which it was clipped.
Upcoming performances of Kà have been canceled until further notice. Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte issued the following statement over the weekend:
"I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated. We are reminded with great humility and respect how extraordinary our artists are each and every night. Our focus now is to support each other as a family."
Guillot-Guyard was born in Paris, and a member of the Kà cast since 2006. She leaves behind two children, ages 5 and 8.
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