Horrific Circus Accident: What Caused 'Hair-Hanging' Performers to Fall?

Investigators are zeroing on what caused a support frame to collapse, injuring eight 'hairialists.'
5:22 | 05/05/14

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Transcript for Horrific Circus Accident: What Caused 'Hair-Hanging' Performers to Fall?
Thousands of audience members at the circus were left gasping in shock instead of awe yesterday when a stunt went off the rails. Performers can fly and spin and make it all look so easy. But that doesn't mean what they do is safe. As jaded viewers seek the newest most extreme stunts it requires more and more risk to dazzle a crowd, sometimes to a tragic effect. Here's ABC's gio Benitez. Reporter: It was the latest in a long line of latests. We have the human chandelier. Reporter: A new circus trick for the ringling brothers legends show, pushing the envelope in an industry always looking for the next new thing. Hanging suspended in the air by their hair. It's never been done anywhere in the world before. Reporter: For one audience in Providence, Rhode Island a dramatic and horrifying turn. Just seconds after a curtain dropped, revealing these acrobats hanging by their hair, eight young women falling about 35 feet, the circus says, right on top of a dancer below. The heavy contraption holding them up giving way. Everybody thought it was part of the act. Then when they landed on the floor and they weren't moving, they weren't getting up, then we knew there was something wrong. Reporter: Tonight, all eight remain in the hospital. Injuries including a pierced liver and broken bones. We ask you that please enjoy this intermission at this time while we situate ourselves during this accident. You could tell the crane was heavy because it took ten guys. You could see them struggling to lift it from on top of the girls. It was unbelievable. Reporter: A performer's father speaking to us by phone from Brazil. She's okay. She's doing okay. Only have a broken arm and some fractures on the neck and the back too. Reporter: It is only the most recent in a series of accidents in an entertainment industry continually trying to top itself. Circus performer junior Espinosa injured during a slip and fall from the 40-foot-tall wheel of death. Stuntman josh hedford injured during this stunt at the X games in Michigan. Magician David copperfield spoke to "Nightline" about the hazards last year. There is danger. You take educated Ritz kz. You have backup plans. But things do go wrong. Things do screw up. You're depending on lots of people who you trust and they're smart people and really well trained, but sometimes things do go wrong. Reporter: In Providence rescuers quickly came to the rescue of the fallen performers. The injuries were a lot of fractures, bone breaks. Quite a few head injuries. And internal injuries, obviously. Reporter: But what went wrong? Nicole Feld is the producer of the show. Nobody saw a net under the performers. Is that standard, that there wouldn't be a net under there? This act is not performed with a net. They're attached by their hair. They've performed this act over 150 times to live audiences, not to mention many times before that in rehearsals. We -- they've been practicing for over a year. Reporter: Watch them spin from their hair in this performance video. Watch again. Ten rotations in just five seconds. Strong hair made stronger by special hair care and vitamins. Experts say a head of human hair is strong enough to support two elephants. This promotional video for a new live show, tapilo tract, French for pulled by the hair, shows two performers prepping their hair with treatments and tying it onto rings. Beautiful. Good. Group two. Reporter: Laura Woodward is the coach and trainer of some amazing aerial stunts. It wasn't a performer error. It was a mechanical failure. There's still always an element of risk and of danger. So we try to minimize those risks as much as possible through education, through training, through inspection of our equipment and our rigging. Reporter: She shows us the device holding the scaffolding up, called the carabiner that caused the dramatic fall. I twisted my carabiner, flip it, screw it down, and I always check to make sure it's closed. The one that they had on the show was quite a bit larger as it was designed to hold eight people. But these little clamps are what we trust our lives too. Reporter: Tonight investigators have zeroed in on that device, said to be capable of holding up to 10,000 pounds. That carabiner failed. It was a single piece of equipment that failed. Reporter: Now state, local, and independent investigators are looking into why it snapped and if a backup should have been in place. Families now left with a difficult memory. And to the families who so often go to the ringling brothers circus, what do you say to them? There's a term that's been going around, "Circus strong," and these people and these performers are so incredibly resilient. I have just N doubt that they're going to be able to recover in an incredible way. Reporter: For "Nightline" I'm gio Benitez in Rhode Island.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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