Investigation underway after acrobat falls to death during performance in East China’s Anhui
Published: Apr 17, 2023 06:10 PM Updated: Apr 17, 2023 06:02 PM
Photo: Sina Weibo

Photo: Sina Weibo

A female acrobat fell from air while performing with her husband on Friday and died of injuries despite being rushed to emergency care, local authorities in Suzhou, East China's Anhui Province, announced on Monday, vowing an in-depth investigation according to laws and regulations.
The incident stirred public concern over the safety of aerial acrobatic performances, with many netizens calling on the safety management and government supervision of the acrobatic industry to be strengthened to ensure every performance takes place in a safe environment.

According to a notice released by the investigation group formed by multiple departments, the acrobat, surnamed Sun, and her performance partner surnamed Zhang were a couple.
Footage of the performance shows that Sun unexpectedly fell from the air while the dual team members were showing off their aerial acrobatic skills with difficult moves, soon after they are pulled up by a winch and swinging up in the air.
Sun was injured from the accident and eventually died despite being rushed to hospital, the notice said.
Local officials expressed deep condolence to the deceased and sympathy to her family, vowing a further investigation into the incident and to deal with the case according to laws and regulations based on the facts and identification of responsibilities.
Preliminary investigations show that the performance was held by a local family farm and was organized by a performance company. All the personnel and partners involved in the incident are under investigation, according to the notice.

China Acrobats Association released a statement on Sunday and urged safety for acrobats as the performance market is gradually recovering since the beginning of this year. The association said more attention should be paid to comprehensive safety measures by practitioners of acrobatics, to place acrobats’ life and safety in the first place.

On Saturday, a manager surnamed Wang from the performance company claimed in an interview that the couple were experienced performers but had a bickers on the night of the accident and that Sun did not buckle her safety belt.

However, such a claim was refuted by Sun’s husband, who said on Sunday that they were not in a dispute before the accident and they had always been in a good relationship.

Industry insiders told media that it is very difficult to enforce security measures for such a performance and the accident could have resulted from multiple factors such as performers’ mental and physical conditions or improper operation of the winch. They also pointed out that a net should have been set up under the performers to ensure their safety.

An eyewitness told media that there was no safety cushion on the stage, either. And that it was difficult for the ambulance to arrive at the venue since the roads in the village were too narrow. 

According to media reports, Sun, born in 1986, and her husband had two children.
The tragedy quickly aroused heated discussion online with netizens lamenting that the acrobats were risking their lives to make a living, whereas the attitude of the company which organized the performance was fiercely criticized for shirking responsibilities.
Videos show that many performances organized by the company in the past did not include adequate security measures, according to media reports.
The host of the performance on Friday evening even used the lack of safety protection as a selling point in marketing the performance.
Public information shows that the performance company was established in 2018 and was fined 50,000 yuan ($7,280) for holding a commercial performance without approval by the tourism authority in Bozhou, Anhui in March 2021.
However, who should be held responsible depends on the relationship between the performance company and the acrobat, from the perspective of civil compensation, Zhou Zhaocheng, lawyer from Beijing Yifa Law Firm, told the Global Times on Monday.

According to Zhou, if the performers had a labor contract, the victim’s family members can apply for the recognition of a work-related harm from the local human resources and social security bureau and the relevant compensation shall be covered by work-related injury insurance.

According to witnesses, there were no effective protection measures, no first-aid personnel or emergency measures, indicating that the performance company had failed to fulfill its duty of care, so that it can be roughly judged that the company should at least assume the major or even all the responsibility. If the accident was caused by the acrobat's failure to take reasonable protective measures, the acrobat may bear the main responsibility, and the performance company shall bear the secondary responsibility.