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Cirque du Soleil performer posted about new act hours before falling to his death

Police said he was performing on the double rings when one of his hands slipped off the ring and he fell approximately 20 feet

WFLA Staff -

TAMPA (WFLA) - The Tampa Police Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have launched an investigation into the death of the Cirque du Soleil performer who fell to his death Saturday night during a performance in Tampa, according to the agency's spokesman.

The horrifying drop happened Saturday night during the company's production of VOLTA at Under the Big Top on Nebraska Avenue.

A spokesman for Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group identified the performer as Yann Arnaud, a long-time aerialist. Police said he was performing on the double rings when one of his hands slipped off the ring and he fell approximately 20 feet.

Arnaud was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he later died.

"The entire Cirque du Soleil family is in shock and devastated by this tragedy. Yann had been with us for over 15 years and was loved by all who had the chance to know him," said President and CEO Daniel Lamarre. "Over the coming days and weeks, our focus will be on supporting Yann's family and our employees, especially the VOLTA team, as we go through these difficult times together."

Although the death appears to be accidental in nature, the Tampa Police Department and OSHA will conduct an investigation into the incident as is standard protocol. An autopsy will be performed on Monday.

A spokesman for the company says they are offering their "full and transparent collaboration" as authorities investigate what happened.

Hours before he plunged to his death, the performer posted a photo to Instagram to announce the strap duo act would finally appear in the show.

"After so much work and training and staging, our straps duo act is finally in the show tonight. It' s time to go for it @pawel_walczewski," Arnaud wrote.

Julian Martinez was in the audience when the performer fell. He says he can't get the incident out of his mind.

"Everyone rushed to the stage really quickly, they wanted to see what happened to him," he said. "After about five minutes, the Cirque officials got on the loudspeaker and told us to leave."

Cirque du Soleil had two more VOLTA performances scheduled for Sunday, the final two shows in Tampa. Both have been canceled.

The company says all ticket purchases through the website or call center will be automatically refunded. Customers who purchased tickets through partners of Cirque can contact the seller for a refund.

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