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Circus Accident Leaves Two Acrobats With Spinal Cord Injuries

Doctors say the women are resilient but it's unclear how many of them will return to the big top as high-flying performers.
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Two of the eight Ringling Bros. acrobats who plunged more than 30 feet during a performance in Rhode Island have spinal cord injuries, and the extent of their recovery won't be clear for months, doctors said Tuesday.

"The patients with the critical spinal cord injuries show some mild improvement," said Dr. Adetokunbo Oyelese of Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

"We are certain they can make some sort of a recovery but again, only time will tell."

Some of the other women may fully recover — or the injuries may be career-altering, said the doctors, who have performed 17 surgeries on the group.

"Some people recover remarkable activity," Dr. Roman Hayda said.

"Where will these people end up is still unknown but given what I've seen, I think they will go far," he added. "Whether they can perform, do handstands and do things like that…we’re working on that."

Members of the troupe are uncommonly resilient and tough, though. One of the performers initially refused pain medication because she was worried it would interfere with her stretching routine.

The eight women were suspended by their hair from a metal frame when the apparatus suddenly crashed to the floor during a Sunday morning performance at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.

Rhode Island officials have said a single carabiner, a steel ring connecting the frame to a cable, snapped for unknown reasons.

A male dancer on the floor was banged up but not seriously injured. One of the women, Samantha Pitard, was released from the hospital Tuesday and said she will get back in the air.

"You gotta get back up and do it again," Pitard told the Associated Press.

— Tracy Connor