Fatalities at the Running of the Bulls

Running with the bulls, Spain
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Since the first death in 1922, 15 people have died at the Pamplona Running of the Bulls. Daniel Jimeno Romero, who died during the 2009 Pamplona Running of the Bulls after being gored, is the most recent person to die during the annual celebration.

Fermin Etxeberría Irañeta sustained fatal injuries from being hit by a bull's horn in 2003, but the highest-profile death was that of Matthew Tassio, a 22-year-old American who passed away in 1995.

Tassio's death gained international attention because he was the only foreigner to die during a run since Mexico's Gonzalo Bustinduy was gored to death in 1935.

Although fatalities are quite rare, 50 to 100 people have been injured annually in the run. Running with the bulls at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona is a very dangerous activity that is not recommended for most tourists.

The High-Profile Passing of Matthew Tassio

Of the 15 runners who have passed away at the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, 13 of them have been from Spain—11 of which from the nearby town of Navarre. However, the death that's gotten the most attention on a global scale was that of the American Matthew Tassio.

Most of the time, native Spaniards who die during the run get a small write-up about their death, but Tassio's passing was written about across Europe and North America. According to a BBC article on the death of Matthew Tassio:

"The fighting bull which gored him weighed half a ton. It hit him in the abdomen, severed a main artery, sliced through his kidney and punctured his liver, before tossing him seven meters (23 feet) in the air."

The graphic details and international attention of Tassio's passing propelled a global conversation about increasing safety at runs through observing Tassio's downfall.

One journalist on the now-defunct Bullrunners' website called Tassio "woefully unprepared...as evidenced by his walking shorts with a sweater wrapped around his waist, probably to ward off the chill night air of the evening before."

Tips for Running With the Bulls

Injuries are quite common, and although deaths are rare, they can be avoided by following a few tips and pointers runners have picked up over the years from watching others injured or hurt during the Running With the Bulls.

In the case of Tassio, the Bullrunners' journalist says his biggest mistake was breaking the "cardinal rule of the encierro: If you go down, stay down." This rule is the first step to avoid getting gored by a charging bull's horn—by staying low, the bull's horns will likely pass over you, but you might still get stepped on by others.

Another common injury that happens during the run is that one person falls and several others fall over the other, creating a pile-up. If the group of runners doesn't separate and keep moving quickly, the bulls often charge directly into the pile, gouging the people in it.

If you are planning on running with the bulls in Pamplona, seriously consider the risks and make sure to follow all safety tips on Running with the Bulls in Pamplona including wearing proper clothing, knowing how to dodge bulls when they get too close, and adequately preparing for an 825-meter sprint for your life.