Aerialist Nik Wallenda to wire walk over U.S. 41 in Sarasota

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJanuary 25, 2013 

SARASOTA -- King of the high wire Nik Wallenda has permission to do his act high over U.S. 41 and across the bayfront in downtown Sarasota on Jan. 29.

The Sarasota City Commission approved the stunt this week.

Wallenda's walk will cross roughly 600 feet of open space at a height of 180 feet from the Unconditional Surrender statue to the top of the Marina Tower building.

The anticipated Sarasota skywalk will be attempted without a net or safety tether.

The Florida Department of Transportation will close traffic and allow the wire over the Tamiami Trail for the 10:30 a.m. event.

Wallenda, a Sarasota native and a member of the famed Flying Wallendas circus act who lives in the area, holds a $20 million insurance policy, claiming it covers mental distress if anyone witnesses him falling.

Wallenda is a six-time Guinness world record holder for aerial feats.

He wire-walked across Niagara Falls last year.

In February of 2010, Wallenda, the star of that season's Circus Sarasota, survived his death-defying hire-wire walk between One Watergate Condominium and Sarasota's Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

With several hundred spectators sitting on the lawn, Wallenda and his wife, Erendira, performed acrobatics 75 feet in the air in the center of St. Armand's Circle in August of 2010.

But not all Wallenda family stunts have been successful. In 1962, a seven-person chair pyramid collapsed in Detroit, throwing three of the Wallendas to the ground, killing Richard Faughnan and Dieter Schepp.

Karl Wallenda, the patriarch of the family, injured his pelvis. Mario Wallenda was paralyzed and has been in a wheelchair for 50 years.

In 1978, Karl plunged 10 stories to his death during a walk between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was 73.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo. Associated Press and Bradenton Herald partner Bay News 9 contributed to this report.

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