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Cirque du Soleil and MGM Grand cited in acrobat's death plunge in Vegas

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The performer fell almost 100 feet after a wire rope broke, the OSHA said
  • It happened during the final scene of a performance in front of an audience
  • Cirque du Soleil faces fines worth over $25,000; MGM Grand faces $7,000
  • Both companies say they will appeal the decision

By Jethro Mullen

Cirque du Soleil and a Las Vegas casino are facing thousands of dollars in citations after a performer fell nearly 100 feet to her death during a show in June.

The performer, Sarah Guillot-Guyard, plunged to the floor after the wire rope from which she was suspended broke, the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in a statement Tuesday outlining the results of its investigation into her death.

Guillot-Guyard, an experienced acrobat and aerialist, died from "multiple blunt force trauma," the OSHA said.

The fall happened as Guillot-Guyard, 31, was performing in the final scene of the long-running Cirque du Soleil show "Ka" in front of an audience at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on June 29.

During the scene, a mock battle, performers were suspended in the air on lines controlled by wireless remote controls.

The wire rope Guillot-Guyard was attached to was severed by her "rapid ascent," which caused the rope to come out of the pulley and scrape against a "shear point," according to the OSHA. She fell 94 feet to the floor, it said.

Shortcomings cited

The agency said Cirque du Soleil hadn't trained Guillot-Guyard properly and had failed to adequately protect employees working for the show.

Those issues were among the six citations the OSHA proposed for Cirque du Soleil, with fines totaling more than $25,000.

It issued three citations for the MGM Grand, with total penalties of $7,000, saying the casino's employees were exposed to hazards because of shortcomings in Cirque du Soleil's safety measures.

Both companies said they would appeal.

"Cirque du Soleil completed an exhaustive review of its safety policies and procedures in the wake of the tragic accident involving Sarah," Cirque du Soleil said in a statement. "We have redoubled our efforts to ensure the overall diligence and safety of our performers and crew."

MGM said that "safety always has been the top priority for both MGM Resorts and Cirque du Soleil and we continue to work to ensure the safety of our cast and crew."

'You could hear screaming'

In the immediate aftermath of Guillot-Guyard's death, one man who witnessed her fall described the horrific sequence of events.

Guillot-Guyard "was being hoisted up the side of the stage and then just plummeted down," Dan Mosqueda told the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.

"Initially, a lot of people in the audience thought it was part of the choreographed fight," he said. "But you could hear screaming, then groaning, and we could hear a female artist crying from the stage."

The show was suspended after the fatal accident. It resumed performances more than two weeks later.

Guillot-Guyard was born in Paris, specialized as an acrobat and aerialist, and had performed for more than 20 years, according to a website for Cirquefit, which describes itself as a circus and fitness program for kids.

She taught classes through that program.

Nicknamed "Sassoon," she was part of the original cast of "Ka," Cirque du Soleil said in a statement issued shortly after her death.

Cirque du Soleil, which translates as "Circus of the Sun" from French, is headquartered in Montreal. It was founded in 1984.

CNN's Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

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