Sunday, May 4 changed the lives of nine circus acrobats who spent years perfecting a hair-hanging act. On June 17 four of the women held a news conference to answer questions about their lives now and a pending lawsuit. The defendant(s) of the lawsuit have not yet been completely determined.
With a secret hair braiding technique, these women acrobats are able to hang as a human chandelier, 40-feet above the circus floor, dancing and performing stunts. When the platform they were attached to fell to the ground, spectators watched in horror as they plummeted to the ground. The women were still not moving by the time paramedics reached their sides.
After weeks of surgeries, physical therapy and treatment, Viktoriya Medeiros, Widny Neves, Viktorila Liakhova, Dayana Costa, Julissa Segrera, Stefany Neves and Svitlana Balanicheva are dealing with the fact their lives have been changed forever. At the time of the event it was announced that two performers suffered severe spinal cord injuries, five had open fractures, and one had a lacerated liver.
Viktoriya Medeiros, 34, of Bulgaria, who designed the hair-hanging "human chandelier" act with her husband, said the women know they are lucky to be alive. She appeared with a neckbrace and a cast on her leg. While declining to discuss specifics about injuries and the resulting long-term damage each sustained due to pending legal action, she talked about some of the results of the accident.
"We are all terribly injured. Some of us require many surgeries," Viktoriya said, wearing a neck brace and seated in a wheelchair. "We are learning to use our arms, hands and necks again (in) hours and hours of daily physical therapy. We are hoping we can (heal) enough that we can live our lives without this pain."
Medeiros said she will not be able to go back to performing. “For me, my dream is over,” she said. Her career and livelihood are over, along with several fellow aerialists
"My dream was to be a star performer," Julissa Segrera, a 20-year-old American, said from her wheelchair with tears in her eyes. "Now my dream is to get up and walk."
“It’s been a very painful recovery,” Dayana Costa said tearfully. “The doctors still don’t know what’s going to happen. Every day is really hard. Every day is something new.” She spoke from a motorized chair, wore a medical stabilization device to support her head and neck, and her arm and hand were attached to a pin and rod device.
“We always like to entertain families,” performer Svitlana Balanicheva added then revealed that some of her fellow performers are having flash-backs of the horrifying event. “It's something we never dreamed of (happening), now we are having nightmares." She appeared to be wearing a type of body brace.
Clifford Law Offices in Chicago is representing seven of the eight women injured in the accident, including the four who spoke at the news conference. The eighth is being represented by another firm.
“These girls never would have gotten up on the human chandelier if they thought there was any chance of the human chandelier failing,” attorney Michael Krzak said at the conference where the performers are recovering. He added that the women want to get to the "root cause" of the accident, as it affects a number of aerial acts.
Investigators are looking into all possibilities but indicated that the snapped carabiner clip is still being considered. The acrobats cannot sue Ringling Bros or its workers due to worker’s compensation law but outside vendors such as the venue, the manufacturer of the carabiner, and independent contractors who were involved in rigging the stunt are all vulnerable. The injured women’s medical bills are covered by worker’s compensation and say they are receiving the best possible care.