España was twirling upside-down, hanging by her legs from long chiffon scarves tied to a metal bar when either the silky cloth or a mechanism holding the cloth in place failed. Chiffon acts traditionally do not use safety nets. España later died at the hospital from her injuries.
Because the show must go on, a group of clowns began performing to distract the audience from the accident, which occurred 25 minutes into a three-hour show. It was the first fatal accident during a Ringling Bros. circus in a decade.
España came from a family of Bulgarian performers. As part of the Kehaiovi teeterboard act, the troupe earned two places in the Guinness Book of World Records, a decoration from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and the Silver Clown Award. At 13, España broke a world record by swirling 75 silver hoops simultaneously around her body. She broke her own record twice, with 88 then 97 hoops. The latter feat was broadcast on the “Live With Regis and Kathy Lee” show.
Dessi married Mexican trapeze artist Ivan España during a Ringling Bros. show in 1992. She occasionally performed in his motorcycle act — standing in the center of a steel sphere as he and other cyclists rode around her. Their children, Zore and Sian, were also training to become circus entertainers.