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Cirque diver will never walk again after being injured in show, attorney says

Updated April 24, 2024 - 2:02 pm

Kyle Mitrione is working “doggedly” to improve his mobility. But his days as a stunt diver and stage performer are over.

Mitrione is the Cirque du Soleil artist injured June 28 during a performance of “O” at Bellagio. The former Red Bull Cliff Diving extreme stunt team diver is suing the Strip’s predominant production company for an undisclosed amount. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Clark County District Court.

“Kyle is a complete quadriplegic with a spinal cord injury, and that is not something we can correct,” Michael Budner, Mitrione’s attorney in the litigation, said in a phone chat Monday from his office in Philadelphia. “Kyle has been working working doggedly to improve. He’s really done a tremendous job with this therapy to be able to return home, and return to some kind of semblance of a normal life.

“But he’ll forever be in a wheelchair, he’ll never return to his life as a performance diver, nor will he ever walk again.”

Mitrione has referred questions about his health and the new lawsuit to his legal team. Mitrione was 35 at the time of the incident, and turned 36 on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mitrione is a former standout platform diver on the Purdue University swim team. He was voted team co-captain his senior year in 2009-2010.

Cirque spokesman Dave Kirvin says the company has no comment on the lawsuit. Cirque does not comment on ongoing litigation. Cirque attorney Jason Guinasso of Las Vegas has not returned a phone message for comment.

Mitrione fractured his C6 vertebrae while performing in the new Island act during the 9:30 p.m. show the night of the incident. The segment had been added to the show two weeks prior, according to the lawsuit.

Mitrione’s lawsuit alleges that artists were required to dive into the “O” aquatic stage as platforms were in motion, though there were no cues aside from show’s music to inform the artists when it was safe to dive in.

Mitrione was injured as he dove head-first into a platform about four feet below the water’s surface. He underwent emergency surgery that night.

The suit also alleges the act was rushed into the production without the necessary number of “show runs,” or rehearsals, to fine-tune the performance. Mitrione’s suit charges this was “a deliberate cost reduction effort” at the expense of artists’ safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration subsequently fined Cirque more than $30,000, two penalties of a little more than $15,000 apiece, for on-site safety violations in relation to the incident. The fines were issued after a four-month investigation into the show’s operations and staging.

The Island number was dark until returning Nov. 24. Another artist was injured in the act in March, after falling from another performer’s shoulders. That artist was treated and released. The act was back in the show the next night, and continues to be performed.

Mitrione’s wife, Karolina Melska, is also named as a plaintiff in the case. Melska is a well-known aerialist in Las Vegas, having performed in “The Beatles Love” at The Mirage and more recently “Fantasy” at Luxor. She has not worked in the show since her husband was injured.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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