SARASOTA (FOX 13) - Several performers were injured after falling 25 feet from a tightrope during practice for an upcoming Circus Sarasota show on Wednesday. Famed wire-walker Nik Wallenda was involved, but not hurt.
The call came in just before 1 p.m., alerting authorities that multiple people had fallen from a tightrope at University Town Center, firefighters told FOX 13. At least five people were injured, including four trauma alerts.
Ambulances and helicopters responded to the scene. FOX 13's Kim Kuizon reports that concerned family members also rushed to the scene, where one woman exclaimed, "That's my mom who fell off."
Pedro Reis, founder of the Circus Arts Conservatory, said the performers were practicing an unprecedented eight-person pyramid trick on the high wire when they lost their balance. They were approximately 20 to 25 feet above the ground.
"This was going to be one of the highest eight-person pyramids ever done. It's been done before, but not at this height," he said.
The performers were rehearsing the final act for the 20th anniversary show sponsored by the Circus Arts Conservatory and Circus Sarasota. This year's event features the famed Nik Wallenda of the "Flying Wallendas."
Wallenda himself was at the back of the pyramid, Reis explained, and was not among those who fell.
"To have an accident like this, right here in our hometown of Sarasota, is tragic, obviously. Our hearts go out to everybody, to those that got injured, and to Nik," Reis continued. "Nik is feeling a lot of pain right now and our prayers go out to him and his family, and to all the others as well."
The show is scheduled to begin on Friday and run through March 5. Though the injured members will be unable to perform, Reis hopes they will be back on their feet in several months. Until then, he said, they will will go with "Plan B."
"The circus is resilient," Reis added, "the circus people are resilient. The show must go on."
Wednesday evening, circus officials said the injured performers were all expected to make a full recovery.