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Cirque du Soleil performer dies after falling during show's finale

Published: Monday, July 1 2013 10:15 a.m. MDT

This undated photo released courtesy David Fox shows acrobat Sarah Guillot-Guyard, 31, who was pronounced dead at a hospital late Saturday night, June 29, 2013 after falling about 50 feet from the show's stage during a production of This undated photo released courtesy David Fox shows acrobat Sarah Guillot-Guyard, 31, who was pronounced dead at a hospital late Saturday night, June 29, 2013 after falling about 50 feet from the show's stage during a production of "Ka" at the MGM Grand. The founder of Cirque du Soleil says his tight-knit performance company is "completely devastated" after the veteran acrobat died in Las Vegas over the weekend in a fall witnessed by the audience. (AP Photo/Courtesy David Fox) (HONS, AP)

A Cirque du Soleil performer died over the weekend after an accident during a performance of the show “Ka” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Authorities announced that Sarah Guyard-Guillot, a 31-year-old native of Paris, was pronounced dead shortly before midnight on Saturday, according to Andrew Rafferty of NBC News.

CNN reports that Guyard-Guillot was hurt during the show's finale. According to Cirque du Soleil's official website, during the finale, performers are suspended up to 50 feet in the air on wires controlled by remote controls. The Las Vegas Sun reports that the performers also wear harnesses that are attached to the wires.

Audience members told the Las Vegas Sun that as Guyard-Guillot made her way to the top of the stage, she became disengaged from her safety wire and dropped to the open, unseen pit below the stage.

In this Nov. 28, 2008, photo, the final fight scene is performed on a vertical stage during Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” at MGM Grand Resort in Las Vegas. Ka performer Sarah Guyard-Guillot, a mother of two young children, was pronounced dead at a hospital late Saturday night, June 29, 2013, after falling about 50 feet from the show's stage during a performance of Cirque du Soleil's In this Nov. 28, 2008, photo, the final fight scene is performed on a vertical stage during Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” at MGM Grand Resort in Las Vegas. Ka performer Sarah Guyard-Guillot, a mother of two young children, was pronounced dead at a hospital late Saturday night, June 29, 2013, after falling about 50 feet from the show's stage during a performance of Cirque du Soleil's "Ka." (Leila Navidi, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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

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

She was reportedly still in her harness when she fell.

The show continued momentarily after the accident, but then the music stopped and other performers' screams could be heard from below the stage.

MGM Grand released the following statement in response to the tragedy:

"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."

In this Nov. 28, 2008, photo, Sarah Guyard-Guillot, left, and Sami Tiaumassi perform as In this Nov. 28, 2008, photo, Sarah Guyard-Guillot, left, and Sami Tiaumassi perform as "Forest People" during Cirque du Soleil's "Ka" at MGM Grand Resort in Las Vegas. Guyard-Guillot, a mother of two young children, was pronounced dead at a hospital late Saturday night, June 29, 2013, after falling about 50 feet from the show's stage during a performance of Cirque du Soleil's "Ka." (AP Photo/Las Vegas Sun, Leila Navidi) (Leila Navidi, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Guillot-Guyard, nicknamed Sassoon, had been an acrobatic performer for more than 20 years, and had been performing in “Ka” since it opened at the MGM Grand in 2004. She was also the mother of two young children.

It is the first reported fatality from an on-stage accident in Cirque du Soleil's near 30-year history.

“I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated with this news," said Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte in a statement. "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."

The show has been cancelled indefinitely and Laliberte said they are "working with the appropriate authorities and have offered our full cooperation."

Michael Smith is an intern in the news section of DeseretNews.com. A 2013 graduate of the University of Utah, he will be attending Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in the fall.

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