What's considered the worst circus disaster in U.S. history was the fire that engulfed the big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus during a performance in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 6, 1944. The death toll was put between 167 and 169, and more than 700 people were hurt. After the fire, Ringling Brothers began to use arenas as well as the big top. Ringling used a tent for the last time in 1956.
Two years earlier, fire engulfed a Ringling Bros. menagerie tent in Cleveland, Ohio. No people were killed, but more than 100 circus animals perished.
In 1962 at the Shrine Circus in Detroit, the Flying Wallendas toppled off the high wire doing a stunt called the seven-person chair pyramid. The front man faltered, and the pyramid collapsed. Three men fell to the ground. Two were killed and the third was paralyzed.
In 1998, a Ringling Bros. performer broke an ankle during a show in Providence. In 1985, a circus performer fell 30 feet at the Providence Civic Center and suffered a back injury.
In 2004, Ringling Bros. aerial artist Dessi Espana, 32, was killed when she fell 30 feet while swinging from a piece of cloth duirng a performance in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Kellan Bermudez, a 35-year-old Florida performer billed as "Super Kellan" and the "Human Cannonball," was hurt after he bounced from a net onto the ground at a Cole Bros. Circus show at Newport Grand in 2010.