The incident occurred on Saturday night when Yann Arnaud fell during a performance of the show VOLTA, according to Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. The 38-year-old performance artist died of his injuries at a nearby hospital.
Arnaud had performed in Cirque shows for 15 years and was considered one of the company’s most experienced entertainers, president and CEO Daniel Lamarre said in a phone interview.
“We were very surprised, considering his experience, that something like that happened,” said Lamarre, speaking from Tampa, where he had flown to be with the show’s cast. “I cannot describe to you how the people feel. It’s terrible.”
The death is the third fatality involving a Cirque performer in the company’s 34 years, said Lamarre, adding that the aerial strap act is seen as a relatively safe number.
Lamarre said he could not share further details about the incident involving Arnaud, a husband and father with two young children who was from France. The company said it was cooperating with authorities looking into what happened.
Local media reports said Arnaud appeared to lose his grip on a strap before he fell, bringing the show to an immediate halt. Tampa police said the incident is under investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.