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First injured circus acrobat released from hospital, wants to perform again

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The first acrobat has been released from the hospital after several circus performers were injured during an act at a Rhode Island show, and she says she wants to get back to performing.

Samantha Pitard, a 23-year-old from Champaign, Illinois, was one of the acrobats injured in a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show Sunday, May 4, 2014, according to a report by ABC News. Eight performers were doing their “human chandelier” act using a 350-pound hair-hanging apparatus, when a clip snapped, dropping the apparatus and the performers 20 feet down.

While the injured performers are in “good spirits,” Pitard said she was the only one who could currently walk on her own.

Doctors said some of the women may be released within a few days and all of them will need physical therapy. Their injuries ranged from broken bones and joints to spinal fractures to a laceration to the liver. In the accident Pitard suffered fractures on her spine, a bitten tongue, and a cut on her head.

“Every single one of us in the troupe, ever single circus performer, knows that they are risking their lives every time they go out there to perform of practice,” Pitard said. “We hope it doesn’t happen, but we know that we are taking that risk, and we love it enough to take that risk every day to make people happy.”

ABC reported that an orthopedic surgeon, Roman Hayda, said he’s not sure if the women could be acrobats again but the “goal is to get them there.” He said it was helpful that the women were young and physically fit before the incident.

Recalling the fall, the Illinois-native said the whole incident “was very fast.” The performance was going on as usual, but ABC reported that during the acrobats’ third leg position, something went wrong.

“We heard just a big crack, huge noise, and then we were just plummeting to the ground,” said Pitard.

After the fall, Pitard said she sat up and looked around. She saw her troupe leader right next to her and heard her say that she could not feel her legs.

Adetokunbo Oyelese, a neurosurgeon, said that the two acrobats who suffered the most serious injuries can feel their legs, but can only move them a little bit. He is hopeful that they will be able to walk again, but it could take one or two years before they do.

According to the report, investigators say the cause of the accident was either a manufacturing defect or improper use. Stephen Payne from Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company, said the circus was planning a performance for Thursday, May 8, but that they would not be performing the hair act.