Authorities in China are investigating after an acrobat plunged to her death while performing a dangerous routine with her husband on Saturday night.
Video footage of the incident in Hougao village in the eastern Anhui Province appears to show the couple being pulled high into the air by a crane. As they spin around above the performance area, the woman hangs off the man by locking her hands behind his head. She then seems to lose her grip and falls to the ground below.
Clips of the incident went viral across China over the weekend, according to What’s On Weibo, with more graphic images showing the female acrobat brutally hitting what appears to be a hard surface on the floor. People in the audience can also be heard screaming as she hurtles towards the floor.
One colleague of the acrobat, identified in state media as Sun Moumou, told reporters that Sun was “still breathing weakly” after the incident. She was rushed to the hospital where she later died of her injuries, reports say.
After the fall, the performance was immediately canceled along with upcoming shows scheduled to take place later in the weekend. Social media users in China then widely debated the incident on Sunday asking how it could have happened. Some witnesses reportedly described a lack of safety features at the show and said that roads leading to the performance area were not easily accessible for emergency service crews.
Initial reports into the incident suggested that Sun had been arguing with her husband, named as Zhang Moumou, before the performance, and that she’d refused to wear a safety line. Zhou later told the Yangzi Evening News the accusations were incorrect. “We were always happy together,” he said. “There was no fight. As I am in the middle of the process of dealing with all of this, I can’t disclose any specific details at this time.” The couple, both of whom were born in 1986, reportedly had a son and a daughter together.
The Global Times newspaper reported that the company running the show, Anhui Yaxi Performing Arts Media, had been fined over $7,000 for “holding commercial performances without approval.” The Investigation Team of the Yongqiao District Committee and District Government said in a statement that it is now looking into the latest incident and expressed its “deep condolences to the deceased” and her relatives.
On the same day as Sun’s fall, an acrobat performing at Coachella in California was seriously injured after falling during an aerial display. Witnesses recorded the acrobat being placed on a backboard by paramedics before she was rushed to hospital.