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Circus Spectators Treated After Gasoline Spills on Them

RICHMOND, Va. — Noelle Ogilvie’s children, who are 5 and 7, had been ill with bronchitis for a week, so she took them to the circus for some fun Saturday.

Her mother joined them for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus afternoon show at the Richmond Coliseum.

“We enjoyed ourselves immensely [and] had a wonderful time,” Ogilvie, who lives in Midlothian, wrote in an e-mail message. However, they went home with headaches after a motorcycle spilled gasoline on the driver’s face and on spectators in the front rows when the driver flipped twice while performing a stunt on a wire, she said.

The driver, who was soaked with gasoline, was taken to VCU Medical Center, said Lt. Michael Oprandy, spokesman for Richmond Fire and EMS Services.

Six spectators were treated at the scene and released — “getting gasoline off people and flushing some of the gasoline off spectators’ eyes,” Oprandy said.

A spokeswoman for the circus said by email that the spill was caused by a mechanical malfunction, and officials are investigating what caused it. The motorcycle act that caused the spill was discontinued for the rest of the circus stay, which concludes today. The circus will then travel to Norfolk, where it will open Thursday.

Circus officials closed down the area of the spill for decontamination, Oprandy said.

Ogilvie and her family were several rows from the front, she said in a phone interview last night. “We got some gas [in our row],” she said. “The fumes were horrible.”

The circus announcer didn’t say anything to the crowd about the spill, Olgivie said. “He just cleared them all out and went on with the show.”

Olgivie said she and her family were not seriously affected by the gasoline spill.