Cirque du Soleil performer falls to her death at Las Vegas show
Sarah Guillot-Guyard, an aerialist and seven-year Cirque du Soleil veteran, falls during the acrobatic production 'Ka' at the MGM Grand.
By Matt Pearce and John Glionna
June 30, 2013, 9:32 p.m.
A performance of Cirque du Soleil's "Ka" in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. (Beatrice de Gea / Los Angeles Times / January 31, 2005)
LAS VEGAS — At first, Heather Bell thought the falling woman was part of the show. She turned to her sister Madelyn and said, "Whoa."
Cirque du Soleil's performance of "Ka" — an elaborate acrobatic production featuring the company's trademark, daring aerial work — had reached its climactic battle scene Saturday night when something went horribly wrong.
Sarah Guillot-Guyard, 31, a seven-year Cirque veteran known as Sassoon, had been dangling near a catwalk hidden far above the stage at the MGM Grand hotel and casino when the Bell sisters saw her go into a free fall and tumble out of sight, into the stage's pit.
"It was just an instant," said Madelyn Bell, 17, of Pensacola, Fla. "She just fell. She hit the ground, and you could hear the scream."
Within an hour, Guillot-Guyard was dead. The audience that had expected to see one of Cirque du Soleil's world-famous death-defying productions had instead witnessed a performance death, thought to be the first during a show in Cirque du Soleil's 29-year history.
"It didn't look like she was trying to grab on the wall or anybody else as she fell," said Bryce Johnson, 27, of Las Vegas.
Audience members said they were shocked into silence and could hear cries from the pit, which was blocked from sight by the show's ushers. Other performers were stuck in public view, watching the rescue work below as they dangled from the ceiling for several minutes, witnesses said, until they were lifted to safety one by one. The show's music continued to play, then was silenced.
At one point, the performers simultaneously pressed their fingers to their earpieces to listen to a message, witnesses said. Johnson said he heard someone call for a gurney.
"That whole time, nobody was talking in the audience. Maybe whispering. But you could hear a pin drop," said Dan Mosqueda, 46, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who was at the show with his wife and 10-year-old son. "Everybody was stunned and trying to figure out, hey, what happened?"
About 10 minutes after the fall, the audience was ushered out with promises of refunds. Guillot-Guyard was taken to University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead shortly before midnight. A trained acrobat and aerialist, she was born in Paris and had been performing for at least 22 years.