AP NEWS

Florida newspaper posts video of 2017 high-wire accident

March 23, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida newspaper has posted video of a 2017 high-wire accident that sent five performers in tightrope-walking star Nik Wallenda’s troupe tumbling more than 30 feet to the ground.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune obtained the video from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Wallenda was among eight performers rehearsing in pyramid formation when his sister Lijana Wallenda began to wobble. The group was about halfway across the wire.

The video shows five performers plummeting to the ground, while Wallenda and two others catch themselves on a wire and Circus Sarasota staff rush to help.

No one died, which doctors who treated the fallen performers said was “miraculous.”

One of Wallenda’s injured relatives has pending litigation related to her injuries. Carla Wallenda said her daughter Rietta, who is Nik Wallenda’s aunt and fell from the top of the pyramid, now limps with one leg shorter than the other.

“As far as legal stuff, it’s never been a battle,” Nike Wallenda said Thursday. “I’ve done everything I’ve could to make sure they’ve been taken care of.”

The Wallenda family has been a star tightrope-walking troupe for generations, tracing their roots to 1780 in Austria-Hungary, when their ancestors traveled as a band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, animal trainers, and trapeze artists. They never use nets in live shows or in rehearsals.

Wallenda, 40, said he did not want the video publicized because he did not want his sister Lijana to relive the trauma of her fall.

“I’ve had nightmares since I was a child seeing video of my great-grandfather falling, and it’s sort of haunted me my whole career,” he said. “So now it’s even more personal because it involves me, and it’s my sister who went through this. And I don’t want her to have to go through this mentally.”

In 1978, 73-year-old Karl Wallenda fell to his death from a high wire strung between two buildings in Puerto Rico. In 1962, Karl Wallenda’s nephew and son-in-law died, and his son was paralyzed, after a seven-person pyramid collapsed during a performance.

Nik Wallenda’s high-wire walks above Niagara Falls, the Chicago skyline, and the Little Colorado River Gorge near Grand Canyon National Park were broadcast on national television. Four months after the fall in Sarasota, his wife, aerialist Erendira Wallenda, hung by her teeth from a helicopter over Niagara Falls.

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Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com