Injured Acrobat Will Return to Circus, Questions Hair Act After Accident

Samantha Pitard is the first acrobat to be released from the hospital.

ByABC News
May 7, 2014, 8:53 AM

May 7, 2014 -- One of the eight circus acrobats who plunged to the ground during a hair-hanging act said she is not sure if she or any of the other acrobats will ever perform the act again.

“For now, it’ll be a while and it’s not sure if any of us will be doing hair again,” Samantha Pitard said today on “Good Morning America.” “I will, eventually, not sure when yet, go back to the show.”

Pitard was released from the hospital Tuesday, two days after she and seven other acrobats fell nearly 35 feet while performing a "human chandelier," an act that entails hanging from an apparatus by their hair, during a Sunday performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in Providence, R.I.

“It was just like our normal day,” Pitard said. “We’ve done this show hundreds of times. We go inside a big curtain that will eventually drop to reveal us all hanging up there, all eight of us hanging by our hair.”

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“We went in, got connected up, everything was just like any normal show,” said Pitard, a native of Champaign, Ill., who joined Ringling Bros. in 2012. “The curtain went down and we got to about the third leg position, hear a huge popping noise and then just plummet to the ground.”

Pitard said she landed sitting up and bit her tongue so hard it’s still, "kind of messed up." She also required three stitches to repair a cut on her head and had small fractures on her spine.

“I’m a little bit sore this morning, but overall I’m feeling OK,” Pitard said on 'GMA."

Pitard’s seven fellow acrobats remain hospitalized and Pitard said she first thought of them after the crash.

“I asked, ‘Is everybody alive?' and they [paramedics] were able to tell me, ‘Yes, everybody is alive. Everybody is conscious,’” Pitard said. “Which is incredible. Like, I don’t know how. Somebody was watching over us, for sure.”

Providence fire officials have determined that a single, five-inch steel clip designed to support as much as 10,000 pounds was at fault for the crash, even though the weight of the apparatus and performers Sunday was just 1,500 pounds.

Pitard said she always felt safe while performing the “hair hanging” act.

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“We’ve been practicing this act since last year,” she said. “Our troop leader is huge on safety. That is his top priority, so we all feel very safe with him. We all feel very safe in the troupe.”

“Personally, I feel safe,” she said.

'Hair Hanging' a Rare, Painful Circus Act

“Hairialists” like Pitard are part of a long circus tradition that results in twirling bodies dangling 35 feet in the air, secured to the ceiling by no more than their own braided tresses.

“The big thing is you just have to take good care of it,” Pitard said of her hair. “You can’t diet. You can’t use product in it. You can’t blow dry it. You can’t straighten it. It has to just be natural.”

“You also just have to have the right hair, the right thickness, the right strength,” she said. “Use really nice shampoo, take lots of vitamins, eat healthy.”

Following “the show must go on” mantra, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus has continued on to perform in Hartford, Conn. Pitard, however, is staying behind in Providence to be with “her girls.”

“For the time being, I’m going to be staying here with all my girls,” she said. “They’re all being taken care of really well. Everyone, thankfully, is expected to fully recover, which we are all incredibly, incredibly happy about.”

ABC News' Rheana Murray and Gio Benitez contributed to this report.