Chinese acrobat falls to her death during mid-air performance with husband

Sun is seen grasping her husband’s neck seconds before she fell.
Sun is seen grasping her husband’s neck seconds before she fell. Photo credit: Screenshot / New York Post

By Nectar Gan and CNN's Beijing bureau

A Chinese acrobat has fallen to her death during an aerial silks performance, sparking horror and outcry on social media over the lack of safety measures.

The woman, surnamed Sun, fell to the stage while performing a mid-air routine on Saturday with her husband in a village near the city of Suzhou in central Anhui province. She was taken to hospital but died of her injuries, the Tongqiao district government said in a statement Monday.

Online footage of the incident showed the couple being pulled high into the air by a crane above a large outdoor stage, with the woman holding on to her husband whose arms were wrapped around two pieces of fabric hanging from the crane.

As they swung in mid-air, the woman wrapped her arms around her husband's head and hung off him during a transition act. But she lost her grip and and plunged to the hard stage amid screams from the crowd. Her husband attempted to catch her with his legs but failed, the footage showed.

Videos of the horrific moment shocked Chinese social media. Many users questioned why the woman did not wear any safety belt, and why there was no safety net or crash mat on the ground. Others called for stricter regulations on the acrobatic industry and better protection for performers.

"This kind of mid-air acrobatic performance is really dangerous. At least put a safety net underneath so the (performer) can be protected from falling," said a comment on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform. "No matter how skilled the performers are, there will always be mistakes. How come there are no safety measures?"

In another statement released Tuesday, the Tongqiao government said an investigation by authorities had ruled the tragedy was an accident.

The show was hosted by a local farm business owner, who contracted the Anhui Yaxi Performing Arts Media Company to run the performance, the statement said.

The company failed to obtain approval from authorities prior to the show, and failed to provide essential safety protection and emergency measures during the performance, the investigation found. The use of a crane in the performance was also a violation of regulations, it added.

The company has reached an agreement on compensation with the family of the acrobat, and will be punished according to regulations, the statement said.

China's Acrobats Association said in a statement Sunday it was "devastated and shocked by the tragedy" and called for acrobatic groups and performers to pay greater attention to safety measures.

The Paper, a state-run news website, reported that during the show, a host had boasted to the audience that in order to make the performance look "real," the performers were not equipped with any safety measures.

The report added that the female acrobat had been married to her husband for more than a decade and left behind two children.