Las Vegas, Nev. (Canadian OH&S News)
The death of a Cirque du Soleil performer has raised the question of whether spectacle trumps safety.
Sarah Guillot-Guyard died on June 29 after falling more than 27 feet to her death as part of Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil’s show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The 31-year-old acrobat plunged to her death into an open pit during the show’s finale, in which multiple artists are suspended in the air using a wire.
A statement from the Clark County Coroner determined her death to be an accident.
“The Clark County Office of Coroner/Medical Examiner has determined that Sarah Guillot-Guyard, a performer in KA by Cirque du Soleil, died on Saturday, June 29, from multiple blunt force trauma suffered when she fell approximately 90 feet,” the release reads. “The manner of her death was accidental. The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is continuing the investigation into how this accident occurred. The OSHA investigation could take up to six months to complete.”
Guy Laliberté, the co-founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil issued a statement after Guillot-Guyard’s (also known as Sassoon) death, saying that his team will fully cooperate with the authorities in their investigation.
“I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated with this news. Sassoon was an artist with the original cast of KÀ since 2006 and has been an integral part of our Cirque du Soleil tight family,” Laliberté added.
Sassoon’s death, which happens to be the show’s first on-stage death in almost 30 years, has ignited the debate of safety versus spectacle. While aerial performers are regulated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, those who perform on-stage face more danger than those who act in the more traditional shows.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, those who perform flying and aerial stunts are at a higher risk of injury compared to those who perform normal performances.
In their safety guidelines, which were last updated in the fall of 2012, the MOL noted that the design, construction, operation, maintenance and sufficient rehearsals haven taken place prior to show time.
“During performer flying and aerial stunts there is a much greater chance of injury in the event of an accident than during normal performance activities,” the labour ministry’s guideline stated. “With regard to performer flying and aerial stunts, this means that all parties involved must have the knowledge and training (through adequate rehearsal) to operate and perform the effect safely. It also means that they must be aware of any possible danger involved in operating or executing the effect.”
As well, all aerial stunts or flying performances are required to have a rigger, who is the coordinator and installer that ensures all equipment is up to code and can bear the weight of a live, active load, or performer.
The U.S.-based Occupational Safety Administration’s investigation is currently ongoing.