Cirque du soleil fined for accident that killed acrobat
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 23, 2010 4:56PM EDT
MONTREAL - A misstep by a gymnast and poor risk evaluation have triggered small fines against the world-famous Cirque du soleil for an accident that killed one of its acrobats.
The Cirque was assessed $1,915 in fines, Quebec's occupational-safety board announced Wednesday.
It said the Cirque moved quickly after last year's accident to re-evaluate its approach to manoeuvres involved in the use of the Russian Varekai swing, said an official with safety board.
Although improper execution by the gymnast played a key role in the accident, the board faulted the Cirque for inadequately evaluating the risks of using the swing.
"It's a combination of factors that caused the accident," said Alexandra Reny, a board spokeswoman.
"The cause retained was that the acrobat removed his feet too soon from the strap of the Russian Varekai swing, leaving him badly positioned at a crucial moment, such that he lost his balance and fell off the swing."
Reny said the board is satified with the Cirque's efforts to address the situation.
"After the accident we asked the Cirque du soleil to have a better evaluation of the risks and they gave us the proof that they changed and we accepted it," she said.
Chantal Cote, a Cirque spokeswoman, said the circus has read the report and co-operated with the board in its investigation of the accident.
"We complied with their recommendations," she said in an email.
"We have had an excellent dialogue with them from the start. We have always taken very seriously the security of our artists on all our shows and in all our training facilities. . .
"Cirque du soleil has always been very proactive in ensuring that its equipment and work environments are extremely secure, and it will certainly continue to do so."
Cote added the release of the report "brings us back to a very difficult time."
"Last October, we were confronted with an incident we had never been through before, and it is still quite fresh in our minds."
Acrobat Oleksandr Zhurov was training on a swing when he lost his balance, falling to the floor and striking his head.
He had completed three or four 360-degree rotations in the device and was trying to go lower but was unable to maintain his momentum, Reny said.
He was not far off the ground when the accident happened.
"It's not a big fall," she said. "It's not like you are three or four metres."
The safety board has actively pushed for greater precautions in the province's performing arts sector, which it says records more than five accidents per week of varying degrees.
Reny said the board regularly consults with arts organizations, including the Cirque, on safety measures.
Most of the accidents in the entertainment industry involve pulled muscles by dancers, she said.