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Cirque du Soleil Founder's Son Killed In 'Luzia' Accident

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The son of one of the founder's of the famed Cirque du Soleil performing troupe has been identified as the technician killed in an accident on the set of the group's "Luzia" show, the company announced Wednesday.

The Montreal-based company said Olivier Rochette was struck by a telescopic lift around 6:45 a.m. inside the troupe's tent near AT&T Park. He was rushed to a San Francisco hospital but died of his injuries around 10:37 p.m., authorities said.

The Tuesday and Wednesday night performances of "Luzia" have been cancelled and the company was mourning his loss.

In a release, the Montreal-based high-flying performing act said Rochette's father -- Gilles Ste-Croix, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil -- had been notified of his death.

"Our thoughts are with Gilles, his family and all Cirque du Soleil employees," the company said in a statement.

Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre said the accident has stunned the famed performing troupe.

"I am heartbroken," Lamarre wrote. "I wish to extend in my name and in the name of all Cirque du Soleil employees my sincerest sympathies and offer my full support to Gilles and his family. Olivier has always been a member of our tight family and a beloved colleague."

Lamarre said the company has been working with the appropriate authorities and have offered its full cooperation.

In the late 1970s, Ste-Croix was living in a commune in Victoriaville, Quebec, picking apples to make money. One day he mused that the job would be a whole lot easier if he could attach the ladder to his legs—and devised his first set of stilts.

A friend happened to mention the Bread and Puppet Theater in nearby Vermont, which used stilt-walking as the basis of many of its performances. Ste-Croix went to see the company and realized that his apple-picking skills might actually be in demand in the wider world of entertainment.

In 1980, Ste-Croix and a band of street artists founded the Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul and organized a street performance festival called the Fête foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul, which would eventually lead to the founding of Cirque du Soleil with Guy Laliberté in 1984.

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