A performer in Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” died Saturday, after a fall witnessed by the audience during the MGM Grand production.
The Clark County coroner’s office on Sunday confirmed Sarah Guillot-Guyard, 31, was pronounced dead at 11:43 p.m. Saturday at University Medical Center.
According to the French news service Agence France Presse, Guillot-Guyard was a mother of two.
According to Cirque du Soleil spokeswoman Renee-Claude Menard, this was the first onstage fatality during a performance in Cirque du Soleil’s 29-year history.
Guillot-Guyard’s fall happened near the end of the show during Saturday’s second performance.
“Ka” climaxes with a battle scene staged on a vertical wall as though seen from overhead.
The stage, moved into different positions throughout the show by a massive gantry arm, swings into a near vertical position and performers rappel along the wall while suspended on wires nearly 120 feet in the air.
Each performer wears a harness equipped with hand controls to help steer their guide wires.
“She just all of a sudden fell off,” said Aryan Rahmati, an audience member who was sitting in the center of the theater. “I thought it was just part of the act, because a lot of people had been falling off.”
It quickly became apparent that this was no act.
“The show kind of paused for a second, then one of the actors started screaming,” Rahmati said. “The person who fell was flailing her arms. She didn’t look like she was in control of her body.”
The music from the show was cut and the audience, which Rahmati said seemed about three-quarters full, sat in shocked silence.
“We didn’t know what was going on. I was expecting to hear people whispering, but everyone was just quiet,” she said.
Screams and deep groans could be heard coming from the stage, according to Rahmati.
This seemed surreal to Rahmati, who was visiting Las Vegas from Oregon for her birthday.
“As I was leaving, I thought, ‘Holy crap, did I just witness someone dying?’ ” she said. “I was hoping to wake up to the news that it was just a serious accident.”
Cirque du Soleil confirmed the accident and death in a statement released Sunday afternoon.
“The entire Cirque du Soleil family is deeply saddened by the accidental death of Sarah “Sassoon” Guyard,” Menard said in the statement.
According to Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberte, Guillot-Guyard was an original cast member of “Ka,” joining the show in 2006.
“I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated with this news,” Laliberte said, adding that Guillot-Guyard “has been an integral part of our Cirque du Soleil tight family.
“We are reminded, with great humility and respect, how extraordinary our artists are each and every night. Our focus now is to support each other as a family.”
MGM Resorts International also issued a statement Sunday afternoon regarding Guillot-Guyard’s death.
“Our company is deeply saddened by the loss of one of the talented ‘Ka’ artists Saturday night. The thoughts and prayers of our employees are with the performer’s family, the cast of ‘Ka,’ and the entire Cirque family during this difficult time,” the statement said.
Guillot-Guyard also was affiliated with Cirquefit, a Las Vegas exercise and circus skills program for youngsters. A biography on the firm’s website says Guillot-Guyard was a native of Paris and graduate of the Annie Fratellini Art & Circus Academy where she specialized as an acrobat and aerialist.
This message was posted to Cirquefit’s website Sunday afternoon: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, all current sessions, camps, etc., are canceled until further notice.”
According to Cirque du Soleil officials, “Ka” performances have been canceled until further notice.
The incident occurred while Cirque’s top executives, including Laliberte, were in town to celebrate the official opening of “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay. Most of them were at the party that followed the first of two “One” performances when the accident occurred.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288. Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at email@example.com or 702-383-4638. Follow him on Twitter @clochhead44.