American paralyzed dodging bulls in Pamplona

/ Source: The Associated Press

A New Yorker was paralyzed below the waist while dodging young bulls with other revelers in the bullring at Spain's San Fermin Festival in Pamplona on Friday, festival organizers said.

The 31-year-old, named by hospital authorities as Ray Ducharn, was undergoing surgery after being taken to intensive care after he was hurt while trying to escape when the animals were released in Pamplona's bullring following the famous running of the bulls through the town's streets.

It was unclear exactly how Ducharn was injured but he did not appear to have been gored, organizers said.

The famous running of the bulls into the bullring and the release of young bulls and cows into ring where they charge people are separate events.

Another six people were injured dodging six bulls from the Marques de Domecq ranch, including another New Yorker, a Briton and a New Zealander who was gored in the thigh on the first day of the week-long San Fermin festival.

A total of 15 people have been killed during the festival since 1924. The bulls are dispatched by matadors in the afternoons following the runs.

Party town
For nine days each year, this northern town is converted into a 24-hour party town, its ancient streets packed with young and old partygoers from Spain, Europe, the United States and virtually every other corner of the world.

Many cavort into the early hours, then go straight from the bars to the famous 900-yard route where the bull runs take place every morning at 8 a.m.

The San Fermin festival dates back to the late 16th century, though its roots reach back further, to the era when Spain was first Christianized.

The festival became famous when it was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises." A bronze bust of the writer stands proudly outside the bullring where the bull runs end, and Hemingway T-shirts and other knickknacks can be purchased on nearly every street corner.

Pamplona's population of about 250,000 is expected to rise to more than 1.5 million this week, but not everyone in the city looks forward to the San Fermin festival.

Many locals choose to leave town, taking advantage of special offers by travel agents to escape the madness of the bull runs. Countless shops choose to close, boarding up windows to protect merchandise from the throngs of partygoers.

Animal rights activists also make an appearance every year to protest the runs, and bullfighting in general. Several hundred activists ran the length of the famous bull run topless or nearly nude on Wednesday to highlight what they see as cruel treatment of animals.