Operation for woman badly gored in Running of Bulls

The Australian woman is caught by the bulls on the last of the Pamplona street runs. Picture: Reuters
The Australian woman is caught by the bulls on the last of the Pamplona street runs. Picture: Reuters
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An AUSTRALIAN woman has undergone a life-saving emergency operation after she was gored in the chest at Spain’s Running of the Bulls festival.

The 23-year-old became only the fifth woman to be gored in the morning bull runs since a ban on female participants was officially lifted 39 years ago.

She was injured yesterday on the last of the eight half-mile runs through the streets of Pamplona, northern Spain.

One of the half-ton animals speared her as she tried to clamber to safety over a barrier near the entrance to a tunnel leading into the bull ring. Her condition after she was rushed to hospital was described as “serious.” She suffered several fractured ribs and damage to her right lung, according to a medical report released by authorities.

The drama happened just a few feet from the spot where around 200 runners were caught in a crush on Saturday morning.

Twenty-three people were injured in the incident – televised live on national Spanish TV – including a 19-year-old Spaniard who was seconds from death when he was rescued and a 28-year-old Irishman.

The Irish engineer, named as Robert Thackaberry from Dublin, was knocked out by one of the rampaging bulls and then caught in the crush of runners trying to escape the animals which crashed into them from behind.

Jon Jeronimo Mendoza, 19, from the northern Spanish city of Vitoria, the most seriously injured of Saturday’s 23 casualties, was yesterday taken off a ventilator after showing signs of recovery.

The only other four women previously gored during the runs, held from 7 to 14 July every year, were three Americans and a Norwegian. They all survived.

The last woman gored before yesterday was Elinzeey Sain, from Kansas, on 7 July 2002.

The vast majority of the participants who test themselves against the bulls are still men.

Hospitals this year treated a total of 50 people who participated in the runs, called encierros in Spanish.

They included gas firm worker John Bennett, 44, from Wolverhampton, who suffered knee injuries on the first of the runs last Sunday after being trampled on by others as he fell near the end of the course.

The bull run is believed to date back to the 13th century but is known to have continued virtually every year since 1592, when the festival was shifted from September to July. People are thought to have joined the running herd sometime in the 1800s.

The San Fermin festival, which honours the patron saint of the northern city and runs for one week, was made famous internationally by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, and it attracts thousands of foreign visitors.

Fifteen people have been killed at the festival since records began in 1911.

The most recent death was in 2009 when 27-year-old Daniel Jimeno, from Madrid, was gored in the neck by a bull called Capuchino.

Pamplona’s population of 200,000 swells to around two million during the festival, the largest in Spain.

After each morning run, the animals are killed in an afternoon bullfight.

Around 3,500 compete in the most popular weekend runs with 2,000 taking part during the week. Runners dress all in white with red neckerchiefs and many spectators stay up drinking all night in bars beforehand.