Cirque du Soleil performer Sarah Guyard-Guillot has died after a 50-foot fall during a Las Vegas performance of their show KÀ on Saturday. The 31-year-old Parisian, who had over 20 years of acrobatic experience, leaves behind two children. The horrific accident occurred near the end of the MGM Grand production, during a fight scene that tells the story of twins on a heroic quest. Audience member Dan Mosqueda told the Las Vegas Sun that Sarah “was being hoisted up the side of the stage and then just plummeted down. Initially, a lot of people in the audience thought it was part of the choreographed fight. But you could hear screaming, then groaning, and we could hear a female artist crying from the stage.”
Though the official cause of death is yet to be determined, Dan said Sarah was being hoisted up the side of the stage when it appeared that her safety wire became detached, before she plummeted into an open pit. Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberté, says his performance company is “completely devastated.” He says, “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.”
According to Cirque spokeswoman Renée-Claude Menard, it was the first death to occur during a live performance in the company’s 29-year history. However, it isn’t the first death. A 2009 “training” accident saw Oleksandr Zhurov, 24, die of head injuries. In April 2006, acrobat Olga Verchinina suffered a career-ending fall during a rehearsal, breaking her back and pelvis and shattering bones in her feet. Just a year later, another female acrobat was badly injured from a similar fall. All performances of KÀ have been postponed and although it will return, there is currently no re-opening date. ~Naomi Leanage
UPDATE (July 3): The Clark County Coroner’s office reports that Sarah Guyard-Guillot fell approximately 90 feet Saturday night; almost twice the distance reported initially. She died of blunt force trauma.