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Danger Also Rises in Running of Bulls

Spain: Larger crowds and rain-slicked streets heighten peril in Pamplona's famed San Fermin fiesta. Six gorings are among the injuries.

July 08, 2001|From Times Wire Services

PAMPLONA, Spain — Stampeding bulls gored six people Saturday, injuring some of them seriously, in the first dash of Pamplona's famed San Fermin fiesta, which officials described as the most dangerous bull run of recent years.

Three other people were treated for fractures and less severe injuries as the nine-day festival got into full swing.

Recent rain had slicked the streets, and the powerful bulls slipped into the crowd, knocking over people who were running alongside and ahead of them. San Fermin veterans said crowds lining the route of the encierro, or bull run, were larger than usual, adding to the risk of injury.

"It was the most dangerous running in the last two or three years. There were a lot of foreigners out there who did not know how to run properly," said a spokesman for the regional government of Navarre in northern Spain.

He said many runners ignored advice from organizers and touched the bulls as they charged through the narrow streets.

Among the casualties was Jennifer Smith, a 29-year-old tourist from New Jersey, who suffered a foot-long wound inside her right thigh. A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Madrid said she was in serious but stable condition.

A London man was gored in the knee and was in less serious condition. Also hurt was a man who underwent surgery for a horn wound to his chest. Others were treated at stations along the 800-yard run to the bullring.

Although Ernest Hemingway popularized Pamplona's running of the bulls in the 1920s, the San Fermin fiesta is 400 years old. As in Hemingway's fictional account in "The Sun Also Rises," there was blood in the streets.

"It couldn't have gotten worse," said Tom Gowen, 55, who has been running for 29 years, "because of the way the bulls got separated in the curve." Gowan, who is from New Jersey, ended up on the ground, dodging the broken horn of a giant bull named Lunatic.

Since the 1920s, bulls have killed 13 runners.

The last fatality was in 1995--a young American who fell and then stood up instead of rolling into a ball.

The fiesta opened Friday under a downpour of rain and champagne. People by the tens of thousands danced all night in jammed bars and on the chilly streets.

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