Spain’s annual Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona ended this week but not before claiming numerous casualities, including several Australians, making it the most dangerous run so far.
By David O’Neill
A young Spanish man was gored to death on Friday. And at least two Aussies suffered significant injuries among the carnage, but luckily have lived to tell the story.
On day two of the ten day event, an unnamed Australian suffered a broken jaw in a bone crushing collision with a rampaging bull.
The 24 year-old man was taken to the Virgen Del Camino Medical Centre in Pamplona. Hospital spokesman Fernando Boneta said he suffered facial and head injuries after being rammed while running the Mercaderes section.
A Spaniard was trampled to death in this dangerous section in 2003.
Though the opening run last Monday contained no major incident, Australian Callum Hardy was severely concussed after he was set upon by a charging bull after entering the ring. But Fanatics tour manager Philip Van Bentum said Mr Hardy was lucky to walk away with only a concussion.
“The whole episode was incredibly scary, he was tossed up like a rag doll and hit the ground extremely hard,’’ he said. “At first it appeared like he was having a seizure and we rushed to make sure he was ok. Thank god it was just a concussion.”
“Callum fortunately was ok after a few hours, though the hospital was keen to keep him in overnight for observation.” While most see the event as joining one of the wildest parties on the planet, for tour leaders of the numerous organised groups in Pamplona, it is an exceptionally anxious time. VB said it is “unbelievably stressful.”
“We’ve got over a thousand Aussies and Kiwis here that we’re trying to keep as safe as possible given the circumstances,” he said. While no other Australians were reported seriously injured, many came away with battle scars to prove they faced the dangers of running in one of the eight bull runs held during the festival.
Aussie Adam Hall told the Australian Times he was “millimetres away” from becoming a statistic, and “had the scars to prove it.”
Revellers from all over the world head to Pamplona in northern Spain each year to test their bravery and enjoy non-stop street parties at the famous festival. So many of the thousands that race through the narrow streets each day leave with stories of near death, and injuries to ensure the adventure is never forgotten.
Thousands of Australians, the majority who currently call London home, joined the masses over the last two weeks endangering life and limb for a once in a life time experience.
Injured runners were reported each day in the Spanish newspapers, which claim the bulls are deliberately provoked to become more aggressive before being released.
The young Spaniard who died was gored in the neck during Thursdays run, suffering a fatal wound. Paramedics were unable to stop the bleeding.
The tragic death increases the number of people who have died at the festival since records began in 1924 to 15. The last person killed previous to this year was 22-year-old American — Matthew Tassio, in 1995. But in 2003, a 63-year-old Pamplona native, died after a bull trampled on his head and put him in a coma for several months.
Another traditional activity, the famous leap from the “Nevara Ria” considered just as dangerous as the run itself was for the first time forbidden by Spanish authorities. The jump had become synonymous with Australian festival goers but was outlawed and the statue removed after the authorities decided the festival had become out of control in recent years.
Thrill seekers would usually climb the monument and at great heights throw themselves off, hoping to be caught by the crowds below. The Spanish associate the leap with the countless Australians that partake in the death defying stunt, referring to the area situated near the town hall as Australian Square.
The Spanish authorities cited historical reasons for removing the statue much to the disappointed of the Australian contingent.
The opening and closing ceremonies of the famous festival are rated amongst the biggest parties in the world, appealing to the Australian love of chasing thrills and a good time.