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10-Year-Old Circus Prodigy Dies in Accident

Bellingham, Wash., street performer Caleb "Flip" Kors. (KOMO/ABC News)(BELLINGHAM, Wash.) -- A small Washington community is mourning the death of a beloved street performer who, at only 10 years old, wowed crowds and impressed professionals with magic tricks and circus performances.

Caleb "Flip" Kors, who was fatally injured in a hanging accident at his home Monday evening and died Tuesday, was famous on the streets of Bellingham, Wash.

"He was an amazing kid. Incredible," said Strangely Doesburg, Kors' circus instructor and mentor. "A kid can learn to juggle and do partner acrobatics and mime or whatever, and those are all things I was teaching him. But he brought this boundless enthusiasm for interacting with other people. Caleb at 10 could read a person or crowd and see what they needed and take them to a special place. He could say, 'Hey I'm going to juggle. Be a part of this with me.'"

Police released few details about the death, which they say happened accidentally in his room, amid some assembled acrobatic equipment. The official cause of death would not be known until the medical examiner reports back, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Department. Doesburg said that Kors was not practicing any circus tricks at the time of his death.

"He was a little monkey. He liked to climb, and he fell. We don't know what happened exactly," Doesburg said.

Doesburg, who said the family has asked him to speak on their behalf, said that more than 30 people gathered at a Seattle-area hospital Tuesday after Kors was airlifted there from the local medical center. When the medical staff came to deliver the news to the large group, they had to find a larger conference room to accommodate all of Kors' supporters, he said.

"That says not only how great a kid he was, but how many people were touched by him," Doesburg said. "People drove four hours to be there. People got on planes."

The circus group that Kors was a part of, the Bellingham Circus Guild, was deeply shaken by the loss, Doesburg said.

"We used to have a running joke, you know, that if anything happened to his parents, God forbid, we would adopt him. Collectively, as a group," he said. "It's horrendous."

Kors went to weekly drop-in classes at the Guild as well as private lessons and became friendly with the performers. He and another 10-year-old choreographed their own clown show that they performed with Doesburg last year.

The Guild, which puts on a performance on the 15th of each month, said it will use this week's performance as a fundraiser for the Kors family, including Caleb's parents and two older brothers. Doesburg said he was planning his own performance to kickstart a memorial scholarship for performing arts students in the area, and other friends and community members were rallying to hold other memorials and fundraisers.

"It's only been two days, I know, but part of processing this is trying to turn it into something good. And the family is supporting all of these initiatives a lot," Doesburg said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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