Thirteen thrillseekers, including seven foreigners, were injured today during the first “running of the bulls” at the annual San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain.
The bull-running festival was overshadowed, however, by the death of a young Irish soldier who fell off an ancient city wall yesterday. The body of Aidan Holly, a 23-year-old private from Kerry, was reportedly discovered several hours after his accident, which occurred at the same spot where an American man and his Spanish girlfriend fell to their deaths last year.
The bulls themselves have claimed the lives of 14 runners since an official tally began in 1924. The 800m (2,600ft) dash today over the cobble-stoned streets of Pamplona’s old town was especially dangerous because the pack of six fighting bulls became separated and at least one tried to head back to the start.
The Spanish Red Cross said that 13 people were injured, with head, rib or other injuries from falling or getting trampled. It said that six were Spanish and the rest were from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Romania and South Korea. No names were given.
The worst off was a 37-year-old Spaniard with fractured ribs and a ruptured spleen.
The whole run took just over four minutes, which is a bit slow by the standards of the Fiesta de San Fermin. It was the first of eight scheduled runs and the most crowded ones will take place next weekend, when the throngs of thrillseekers will swell dramatically as people pour into Pamplona for two days of revelry and adrenaline.
A lighter turnout is expected this year because the festival began on a Monday. “There were a few tense moments, but I think everything went quite well,” said Aritz Lopez, a 29-year-old runner from Bilbao. “There were fewer people than at other times.”
Many of the participants today wore traditional white trousers and shirts and red kerchiefs around their necks. They carried rolled-up newspapers which are used to gauge how far away a charging bull is.
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.