For Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the show must go on.
A day after a dramatic aerial act disaster in Providence injured a dozen performers, some of them critically, Feld Entertainment said Monday that its Ringling's Legends show is traveling to Hartford, Conn., on Tuesday and performances will proceed on schedule Thursday through Sunday.
Eight women plunged about 30 feet to the ground in front of thousands of startled spectators when a metal framework collapsed during a show Sunday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Rhode Island. Some people on the ground also were injured; the last two acrobats in critical condition were upgraded to serious condition Monday night. Four of the acrobats were in good condition and four in serious.
"We are hopeful that all of these performers will achieve a full recovery and be able to return to the show at some point," said Feld spokesman Stephen Payne.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said a clamp that held the framework to the rafters snapped. Payne said it's premature to attribute the accident to one clamp, adding that the company's investigation was continuing. He also said the rigging was inspected by a circus crew when it was installed last week.
Ken Martin, a safety analyst and inspector who runs KRM Consulting, said Ringling's safety record seems exemplary given the rigors involved in the work of the performers.
"Consider how many times a day they do this," Martin said. "They do this in darkness. These folks need to be able to see it and feel it. … Just consider the potential hazards that exist in aerial acts."
He said entertainment companies, such as Ringling Bros., that rely on elaborate contraptions, harnesses and construction do daily inspections of their gear.
"They couldn't be in business without daily inspections," he said.
Andre Bowser, spokesman for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, told USA TODAY the department is conducting an inspection to see if there were any violations of workplace safety standards.
OSHA conducts inspections only in response to complaints or incidents. A circus is subject to state and local inspections and requirements and any circus that handles animals must be licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act, which requires regular inspections of its animals and their facilities.
Ringling and its parent, Feld Entertainment, have had other safety violations and performer injuries over the years. There have been deaths.
OSHA records indicate in 1994 a road show trainer in Florida was crushed and killed by an elephant while in the animal's pen. The company was fined $2,700, the records show.
In Minnesota, a Ringling Brothers acrobat died in 2004 during an aerial act with chiffon scarves when the mechanism holding the scarves in place failed and she fell 30 feet. USA TODAY has been unable to find any action taken against the circus stemming from the accident.
Among other issues:
• In California, the company was fined $375 in 2007 for violating state regulations for establishing, implementing and maintaining an injury and illness prevention program.
• In Ohio, the company was fined $1,750 in 2006 for what OSHA classified as a serious safety violation for failing to guard floor and wall openings and holes, but the violation was unrelated to performances.
• In Nevada in 2002, the company was accused of violating rules related to keeping the floor of every workroom clean and dry and to tracking occupational injuries or illnesses. The company was not fined.
Pare said Sunday's accident occurred during a "Hair Hangers" aerial act. He said emergency medical services were on scene at the time of the accident and that all the injured were conscious when taken to hospitals. Firefighters and police aided an evacuation of the crowd of more than 3,900 people, he said.
Two shows scheduled for later in the day Sunday were canceled as were shows scheduled for Monday.
Video taken by audience members shows a curtain dropping to reveal the performers hanging from an apparatus suspended from above. Seconds later, as they begin to perform, the women fall, and the metal apparatus lands on them.
Performers Dayana Costa, Julissa Segrera and were listed in critical condition Monday, a spokesperson for Rhode Island Hospital said. Six others remained hospitalized Monday.
The safety issue comes as Ringling Bros. and other circuses already face scrutiny for their treatment of animals. Congress had considered an amendment in 2011 to the Animal Welfare Act that would restrict the use of exotic and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses and exhibitions. That bill died.
Still, Ringling Brothers was hit with $270,000 in fines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violating the Animal Welfare Act from 2007 to 2011.
Feld Entertainment paid the fine and did not admit wrongdoing, but agreed to implement new training procedures for employees who worked with the animals.
Contributing: Associated Press