Megachurch Grieves Loss of Christmas Show Performer

Following the fatal fall of a young actress during a Christmas performance at a Cincinnati megachurch, four special services that will focus on helping to process the loss are being held this weekend.

"Our prayers and heartfelt sympathies go out to her family during this incredibly difficult time," Crossroads Community Church said in a statement. "We are shocked and deeply grieved by this tragic accident."

Keri Shryock, 23, fell about 25 feet to a concrete floor during the opening night performance of "Awaited" on Wednesday. She died a few hours later.

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The 10,000-member church has canceled the remaining 10 performances of "Awaited" out of respect for all of those involved and to facilitate the grieving and recovery process, the church said.

In a report released Friday, police concluded that the fatal fall was an accident caused by an equipment failure.

"Shryock was performing in a Christmas play at Crossroads Church when an equipment failure occurred and was then released from her D-ring and fell," police wrote, referring to Shryock's safety harness, according to The Associated Press.

Cincinnati police completed their investigation and turned evidence over to the Hamilton County Coroner's Office, as reported by AP.

During Wednesday's performance, Shryock and two other performers were making an ascent on ropes as they played the three wise men on the journey to Bethlehem. They were approaching a star when Shryock fell headfirst to the concrete floor.

"Toward the ending of the song she came loose," Daniel Doepke, 55, of Middletown, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "I can't describe how heart-wrenching it was, her fall to a hard concrete surface."

Natalie Hastings, a spokeswoman for the church, told AP, "I know the performers wore some kind of harness and they got some professional training especially to do this."

Shryock had some gymnastics training and was excited about performing the rope act, said Melissa Davish, a friend and former gymnastics club teammate at Bowling Green State University, to AP.

"She was really excited about doing something that unique," Davish said. "We always talked about Cirque du Soleil, about being an acrobat."

Crossroads' "Awaited" Christmas show debuted last year and was seen by more than 20,000 people.

While the remaining performances have been canceled, Shryock's parents have encouraged the church to continue with a Christmas experience so that people would hear the message of Jesus and "because that's the way Keri would have wanted it."

Crossroads will hold three Christmas Eve services featuring traditional Christmas music and a retelling of the Nativity story.

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