Fire-breathing stilt-walker Wesley Daniel has been severely burned after his head caught fire during a dress rehearsal at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Wesley Daniel, 24, was working on a production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago when the horrific accident happened.
The actor was rushed to hospital suffering from second degree burns to his face and throat and first degree burns to his hands.
He is understood to be a in a critical condition as he battles respiratory problems.
When Wesley Daniel blew the fire, despite wearing a fire-proof fire mask, the flames still took hold.
As he was engulfed in fire, Wesley Daniel staggered away and collapsed just off stage.
“His head was engulfed in flames and he was centre stage and in a panic,” said audience member Edward Voci told ABC Local.
“He was trying to put it out and then moved as quickly as he could on stilts but then he had no choice but to just fall down.”
A stage manager with a fire extinguisher then put out spots of flame onstage.
The incident happened in front of a packed auditorium yesterday and many of the audience thought the stunt was part of the show, which opens on Friday.
The stunt had been approved by the Chicago Fire Department.
Chicago paramedics took Wesley Daniel to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, but he was later transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in a critical condition.
“I don’t think he closed his mouth quick enough, so the fire, the stuff in his mouth, came on his clothes and so did the fire, and it also dribbled all over the floor so we saw a line of fire across the stage,” said audience member Karen Avgush to NBC Chicago.
“And then I think he was trying to quickly get off the stage, and I think he was moving too quickly with everybody in the way, so he fell really hard off the stilts.”
The horrific accident occurred about 30 minutes prior to the end of the five-and-a-half-hour performance – the show was suspended for about 45 minutes before it resumed.
The audience missed out on the last few minutes of the show because of a union-mandated break for the 81-member orchestra.
The Lyric Opera of Chicago issued the following statement Monday evening: “An actor sustained burns this afternoon at Lyric Opera of Chicago during a dress rehearsal. The actor, Wesley Daniel, was performing a fire-spitting effect while on stilts. He was wearing a flameproof costume and mask.
“Lyric’s emergency plan was activated immediately. Trained fire guards extinguished minor flames immediately. The fire curtain was lowered. Lyric personnel called 911 and paramedics arrived within minutes. Chicago Fire Department commenced an immediate investigation, then allowed the rehearsal to continue. The actor is being treated at Loyola Hospital.
“The decision was made to remove the fire-spitting effect from performances.”