Kristine Harrington reports
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - When an acrobat plummeted to the ground headfirst during a performance in front of hundreds of people, Scottsdale's police chief was the first to try to save his life.
Chief Alan Rodbell was one of the more than 700 guests Tuesday at the performance in the Birds Nest, a party and concert tent at the FBR Open in Scottsdale.
Rodbell said Wednesday that he was talking to a few people while the acrobats performed overhead without a net. That's when he saw one of the performers fall.
The acrobat, Jose Angel Vera, was unraveling from a sash in a Cirque du Soleil-type performance but something went terribly wrong, and he fell headfirst 15 to 20 feet to the ground.
"It wasn't until I realized the crowd was taken aback and looking on the ground that I realized something was wrong," Rodbell said. He said Vera had his eyes open and was moving before he slipped into cardiac arrest. Rodbell performed chest compressions while a woman performed mouth-to-mouth on Vera.
Despite their efforts, the 31-year-old Vera died a short time later at a nearby hospital.
"These folks are risking their lives to entertain us, so it just brings a whole new dimension to the things that we experience in life that we take for granted," Rodbell said.
Vera, of San Diego, was working with other acrobats as part of New York-based Aerial Artistry Entertainment. He had been performing for 15 years, according to Tatyana Petruk, CEO of Aerial Artistry.
"Angel was a great performer who enjoyed what he did," Petruk said. "He created his act, used his own equipment and did his own rigging. He was a perfectionist."