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Injured circus acrobats improve

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus crew members loaded trucks with equipment on Monday, the day after nine people were injured during a performance by aerialists.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus crew members loaded trucks with equipment on Monday, the day after nine people were injured during a performance by aerialists.

Eight female performers who were seriously injured in Rhode Island after falling about 20 feet during a circus act in which they were suspended aloft by their hair are improving, relatives said Tuesday.

“The girls are all OK, you know, and my daughter is OK,” said Roiter Neves, the father of Widny Neves, a 25-year-old aerial acrobat who was injured Sunday during the accident at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

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Another performer, Stefany Neves, is struggling to recover, he said. “Stefany is the worst of all,” he said in a telephone interview.

Eliane Neves, the mother of the 19-year-old dancer, said she was the first girl to hit the ground, according to an interview published online by O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper based in Rio de Janeiro.

The account said Stefany fractured her heels, femur, and a rib, which pierced her liver and caused internal bleeding. She was listed in serious condition Tuesday afternoon, according to Rhode Island Hospital.

Also listed in serious condition were Dayana Costa, Julissa Segrera, and Viktoriya Medeiros, whose husband, Andrey, created the act.

At the patients’ request, no information was released by the hospital about the conditions of Widny Neves, Svitlana Balanicheva, Viktorila Liakhova, and Samantha Pitard.

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Pitard is doing “much better,” her sister Sarah said in an e-mail. She added Pitard wants privacy while she heals.

An investigation into the accident by the Providence Fire Department found a 4-inch carabiner fastener was the only piece of equipment to fail in the accident, which injured a total of nine performers.

The investigator, Paul Doughty, said he completed his investigation and sent evidence, including the failed carabiner, to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An agency spokesman said its inspection is ongoing.

The fastener, which helped support an umbrella-shaped frame that suspended the performers, was found in three pieces on the ground, Providence fire officials said.

The city’s investigation didn’t reveal why the carabiner failed, but Doughty said there are three possibilities: The clip was overloaded; it wasn’t rigged properly; or it had a manufacturing defect.

Eight performers were hanging by their hair from an umbrella-shaped apparatus at about 11:45 a.m. on Sunday when it gave way, sending acrobats to the ground and injuring a dancer who was on the floor.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is also investigating the carabiner as part of its probe of the accident, said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the circus’s parent company. “We do not know if that’s the sole cause of the accident,” Payne said.

He said the steel carabiner that failed was put into use in December and could hold just over 10,000 pounds. The apparatus and women suspended from it weighed just under 1,400 pounds, he said.

“Every piece of equipment used for the hair-hang display is rated for weight loads well over the total weight of the act,” the company said in a statement.

The circus is planning to replace all of its carabiners before performances resume Thursday in Hartford, Payne said, adding he did not have information about the company that made the carabiner that failed or the one that manufactures the replacement carabiners.

The circus also inspected all of its equipment before leaving Providence , Payne said.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.

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