13 injured in first day of Pamplona bull-running

Image: Revelers are chased on the first day of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain
Revelers are chased by bulls in Pamplona, northern Spain, on Monday.Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Thirteen people were taken to hospital, one of them seriously injured, on the first day of the annual bull running festival in the northern Spanish town of Pamplona on Monday, organizers said.

A 37-year-old man suffered a collapsed lung, ruptured spleen and broken ribs, while two people were concussed and 10 others were treated mainly for cuts and bruises.

The annual San Fermin festival draws tourists from around the world, many donning traditional all-white garb with a red sash around the waist and red kerchief around the neck before running through narrow, twisting cobbled streets, pursued by bulls. The chase lasts about four minutes.

It was not clear how the injuries were caused, but no one was gored out of the hundreds who took part in the early morning run. Participants often fall and are trampled by fellow-runners in the stampede.

Those admitted to hospital after Monday's run included visitors from Britain, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the United States, as well as other parts of Spain.

The whole run took just over four minutes, which is a bit slow by the standards of Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermin, as the festival is known.

First of eight runs
It was the first of eight scheduled runs. The most crowded ones will be next weekend, when the throngs of thrill-seekers will swell dramatically as people pour into Pamplona from out of town for two days of revelry and Adrenalin.

The fact that this year’s festival began on a Monday meant a lighter turnout.

“There were a few tense moments, but I think everything went quite well. There were fewer people than at other times,” said 29-year-old runner Aritz Lopez, from Bilbao.

Many of Monday’s participants wore traditional white trousers and shirts and red kerchiefs around their necks. They carried rolled-up newspapers — a tool for gauging how far away a charging bull is.

Before the sprint, local runners paid tribute to a beloved Pamplona native, Inaki Ochoa de Olza, a veteran mountain climber who died in the Himalayas in May. He also was a regular runner at San Fermin.

The running of the bulls became world famous with the publication of Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” and also is known for its all-night street parties.

The bulls are usually killed after the runs by bullfighters. Although still massively popular in Spain, bullfighting is attracting protests and critical articles in newspapers by some of the country's leading novelists.

Dozens of semi-naked animal rights activists held a protest in Pamplona on Saturday by lying on the ground along the course of the bull running, with imitation barbs stuck to their shoulders, mimicking those which are plunged into the bulls at the start of a fight.

14 deaths since 1924
Since record-keeping began in 1924, 14 runners have died.

The last fatality from a goring was a 22-year-old American, Matthew Tassio, in 1995. In 2003, a 63-year-old Pamplona native, Fermin Etxeberri, was trampled in the head by a bull and died after spending several months in a coma.

On Sunday a young man died after falling 30 yards from an ancient wall that encircles the old quarter of Pamplona. Authorities identified him Monday as Aidan Holly, a 23-year-old from Ireland, and quoted friends as saying he had been drinking.