BOSTON - Four circus acrobats seriously injured in a hair-hanging stunt gone awry are planning a lawsuit and are coming to terms with the idea their lives might never be the same, they said Tuesday from the hospital where they're recovering.
"My dream was to be a star performer," Julissa Segrera, a 20-year-old American, said from her wheelchair. "Now my dream is to get up and walk."
A total of eight acrobats from the U.S., Brazil, Bulgaria and Ukraine were injured May 4 when investigators say a carabiner clip snapped, sending them plummeting about 20 feet to the floor at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show in Providence, Rhode Island.
Four of the women spoke Tuesday at a news conference at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where a number are still undergoing physical therapy. For some, it was their first public appearance since the accident.
They declined to detail the extent of their individual injuries, citing the potential legal action, but their lawyers said the performers had collectively experienced about two dozen surgeries.
Viktoriya Medeiros, 34, of Bulgaria, who designed the hair-hanging "human chandelier" act with her husband, said the women know they are lucky to be alive.
"We are all terribly injured. Some of us require many surgeries," she said, wearing a neck brace and seated in a wheelchair. "We are learning to use our arms, hands and necks again (in) hours and hours of daily physical therapy. We are hoping we can (heal) enough that we can live our lives without this pain."
Dayana Costa, a 26-year-old from Brazil, said her family put their lives on hold to be with her during the long recovery. She wore a neck brace, had pins in her arms and was in a motorized chair.
"I don't know what I'd do without them," Costa said through tears.
Clifford Law Offices in Chicago is representing seven of the eight women injured in the accident, including the four that spoke Tuesday. The eighth is being represented by another firm.
The lawyers declined to say who would be the focus of a lawsuit and did not rule out pursuing legal action against the carabiner-maker or even the venue, the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Attorney Michael Krzak said the women want to get to the "root cause" of the accident, as it affects a number of aerial acts.
"They want to make sure this never happens again in another circus act," he said.
Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are also probing the accident.
The women's medical treatment is being covered through workers compensation, Krzak said.