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RINGLING BROS. STAR DIES FOLLOWING CRITICAL INJURY IN ST. PAUL

May 23, 2004 –Dessi Espana, 32, a star performer in the Hometown Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, was critically injured during a matinee performance on Saturday, May 22nd at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was immediately taken to Regions Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at approximately 10:20 p.m. She is survived by her husband, Ivan, and their two children, Zore and Sian.

“I've known Dessi from the day she was born. She was a beautiful and talented young woman, a performer in our shows for decades who was beloved by everyone in our circus family” said Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Producer Kenneth Feld. “We were all so thrilled when the entire Espana troupe joined the Hometown Edition. Having such a talented family of performers involved in such a unique production made each show that much more special. Dessi will be remembered forever for touching countless hearts and bringing immeasurable joy to millions of families worldwide. Our thoughts and prayers are with the extended Espana family during this painful time.”

Born into a famous Bulgarian circus family, Dessi made her Ringling Bros. debut as a member of her family’s teeterboard act, the Kehaiovi. The troupe earned two places in the Guinness Book of World Records, a decoration from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, and the coveted Silver Clown Award, which is the circus equivalent to an Academy Award.

Dessi’s talents soon enabled her to garner her own accolades: At age 13, she swirled 75 silver hoops around her body to earn her own place in the Guinness Book of World Records, then went on to break her own record twice: first with 88 hoops, then 97. The latter feat was broadcast on “Live with Regis and Kathy Lee” and the record was maintained until the late-1990s.

While touring with The Greatest Show On Earth® as a teenager, Dessi began dating Ivan Espana, a young trapeze artist. As the courtship progressed, Dessi became a part of the Espanas' motorcycle act, standing in the center of a steel sphere as cyclists whirled around her. Ivan and Dessi married July 30, 1992, during a Ringling Bros. performance at the Houston Summit.

Dessi and Ivan joined the Hometown Edition ofRingling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in January 2004 along with Ivan’s brother, Noe and his wife Vivien and their two children. In this show, Dessi performed a number of roles, including the motorcycle act and the aerial chiffon act from which she fell.

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