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Injured hair-hanging circus acrobats hire law firm

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Seven of the eight hair-hanging circus acrobats who fell to the ground during a "human chandelier" stunt in Providence last month have hired a Chicago-based law firm to represent them, the firm announced Monday. The women were injured during a May 4 performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the apparatus from which they were suspended fell, sending them plummeting to the ground. Clifford Law Offices has not yet filed a lawsuit, but it said in a news release it plans to conduct an in-depth investigation into all the possible entities that may be responsible for what happened. The law firm said some of the injured acrobats will speak at a news conference Tuesday at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. While one of the acrobats, Samantha Pitard, was released from the hospital within days, some have severe injuries, and doctors have said it's not clear whether two with spinal cord injuries will walk again. The law firm said some of the women are still using wheelchairs and undergoing physical therapy and it's unknown to what extent they will regain the full use of their limbs. It also said some of the women require more surgery. Pitard, 23, a native of Champaign, Illinois, is among the seven who hired the law firm, according to a firm spokeswoman. She did not immediately have the names of the other women being represented by the firm. The other injured acrobats are from Brazil, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, said the women are still covered by the company's health insurance but he did not know details about their conditions because the families had asked for privacy. Providence police have said they suspect a 4- to 5-inch steel carabiner clip at the top of the apparatus snapped. It was found in three pieces on the ground with its spine snapped. Police turned the results of their investigation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who investigators said they were still probing the accident as of Monday.

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