A scaffolding collapsed during a circus performance in Rhode Island on Sunday, injuring as many as 20 performers, nine of them critically, the Providence Fire Department said.
The incident happened around noon during an aerial performance by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, the city fire department said.
As many as 20 performers were hurt when the scaffolding collapsed, dropping them between 25 and 40 feet to the ground. Nine of the performers were critically injured but are expected to survive, fire officials said.
Witnessed told the Providence Journal newspaper the performers were in the middle of an aerial act, spinning on ropes tethered to the scaffolding, when the structure suddenly fell down.
"They just dropped," Othello Smith, of Providence, told the newspaper. "It happened so fast you didn't really believe it happened."
The cause of the collapse was under investigation. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.