Hartford Circus Fire, Tyke the Elephant, Massarti the Lion Tamer, and Sarah Guyard-Guillot are some of the biggest and most horrifying circus accidents in history. These circus accidents prove that life in the ring is not all exemplary stunts and elated audience. The concept of a circus event is defying danger. Unfortunately, danger is sometimes going to triumph. This danger affects both the circus performers and spectators.
Hartford Circus Fire
Hartford Circus Fire is arguably the worst circus accident in history. This disastrous event resulted in the injury and death of many small kids. It happened in 1944 in Hartford, Connecticut, when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey were performing in front of thousands of people in an afternoon circus show.
A small fire erupted on the roof of the circus tent and spread extremely fast because the tent was coated with a waterproofing mixture of paraffin wax and gasoline. The fire led to a stampede and the fear result in blocked exits. About 487 people sustained injuries and 170 people died during the incident, with 68% of those dead aged 15 years or less.
Tyke the Elephant
Tyke, a 21-year-old African elephant, became violent during a Circus International performance in Honolulu in 1994. The spectators saw the elephant get into the ring spinning around what seemed to be a dummy. The excitement quickly turned into panic as it became clear to the spectators that the dummy was actually the groomer that the elephant had seriously injured. Tyke killed her trainer as he attempted to save the groomer’s life.
Tyke then rushed out of the ring and wandered through the Honolulu streets for about 30 minutes. Police officers managed to kill the raging elephant after shooting it 87 times. Various news outlets aired the horrifying incident, allowing people to view everything from the chase to the death in real-time.
Massarti the Lion Tamer
Massarti was a talented and passionate circus performer who used to perform with lions. Despite losing an arm in a big cat performance at a different circus, he never quit performing with wild animals.
Massarti was killed during a big cat performance with Manders’ Menagerie in Bolton, England, in 1872. One lion attacked him and the other four in the performance joined in as a crowd of over 500 spectators watched in shock.
Accounts suggest that a little too much pre-show drinking may have increased his carelessness on the day he was killed. The circus owner alleges that hot-iron prods were far away from Massarti, and he also appeared closer to the five big lions than usual.
With over 20 productions across the globe, Cirque du Soleil has made a name for itself in the circus industries for its remarkable artistry and high level of safety. The circus had operated for 29 years without suffering even a single fatal on-stage accident. That record was, however, shattered in 2013 during a horrible accident that happened during a show in Las Vegas.
Sarah Guyard-Guillot was involved in a deadly on-stage accident while doing her stunts in the last battle scene of the coveted show. The 31-year-old aerialist allegedly ascended swiftly at some point during her performance and hit a runway above her.
A sharp edge cut the cable that was holding the wheel of the motorized safety harness she was wearing. The aerialist then fell over 90 feet into an empty pit under the stage while spectators watched in disbelief. Guyard-Guillot succumbed to her injuries on the way to the hospital. The circus took an 18-month break to pave way for the investigation of Guyard-Guillot’s death and installation of an advanced safety system capable of lifting aerialists more steadily.
Legal Options for Victims of Circus Accidents
Although a circus is a fun place to visit, it can also come with risks. Circus risks can go beyond the ring and affect even the audience. An experienced personal injury attorney can help anyone who sustains injuries during a circus know the available legal options and the best way to seek financial compensation from the liable person or entity.
The attorney will study the facts of the circus accident to identify who is liable for ensuing damages. The attorney may also take the case to trial to ensure the victim will receive the highest possible compensation.
If the victim can prove negligence through his or her injury attorney, then he or she could recover damages for medical expenses, reduced or lost wages, and physical pain and suffering. Family members may also recover damages from the at-fault party by filing a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one gets killed in a circus.