Bullfighting Arena Collapses Resulting in Fatalities and Injuries

Bullfighting Arena Collapses

Four people were killed and hundreds injured when several layers of packed stands in a makeshift bullfighting ring collapsed during a bullfight in central Colombia on Sunday. These numbers may rise in the hours to come as horrified spectators were buried by the debris.

El Espinal, a little village about 95 miles southwest of Bogotá, was the scene of the tragedy.

Social media users instantly shared videos of the collapse. A wounded bull was being teased and played with by a large group of people at the well-known corraleja festival. A sudden collapse of three levels of stands buried hundreds of adults, children, and infants. Some people leapt from their chairs in response to the screams and raced to offer assistance by attempting to push wood and other debris aside.

64-year-old Hector Ortiz found the scene unbelievable. He heard a woman yell, “That balcony is about to fall down!” and he saw eight segments start to collapse one after another, falling like dominoes.

“After the first balcony collapsed, it pulled the next one, and so on, and so on… It was the gate the bulls go through that stopped the collapse. Otherwise we’d be talking about a much bigger tragedy,” Ortiz said to The Washington Post.

The El Espinal mayor’s office and private parties plan celebrations for the Feast of Saint Peter on June 29 every year. A performance that began on the Caribbean coast when Colombia was a Spanish colony is held in the bullring, which was built for that purpose. Contrary to traditional Spanish bullfighting, bulls in a corraleja are typically not killed, and viewers are encouraged to rush about while the animal is still in the ring.

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The numerous floors of the bullring, which was constructed from gadua bamboo, were crowded with onlookers. “A gadua bamboo structure is pretty unstable… Organizers should have foreseen this could happen,” said Luis Fernando Velez, head of the regional civil defense agency.

Velez reported that 50 civil defense volunteers were assisting in the transfer of the 322 injured spectators who were in the most serious condition from the bullring to the town’s only hospital. Police and firefighters were very helpful. The community received a “red alert” from the neighborhood health system.

Iván Duque, the president of Colombia, tweeted his sympathy for the victims and urged a speedy inquiry.

Among the fatalities was a baby who was 14 months old. When the bullring’s structure collapsed, more than two dozen kids who were with their parents inside were hurt or gone, according to Velez. Mayor Juan Carlos Tamayo Salas estimated that the eight stands in question could accommodate 800 people.

The incident brought to mind the Sincelejo corralejas accident in the Caribbean. When the temporary stands there collapsed in 1980, more than 500 people perished and more than 2,000 were injured.

“This had already happened before in Sincelejo… I request local authorities to refrain from authorizing more spectacles with the death of persons or animals,” tweeted President-elect Gustavo Petro, who will take office in August. 

When he outlawed bullfighting as mayor of Bogota, Petro aroused controversy. He appeared prepared to fight the same battle on a national level on Sunday.

Ortiz, who was there for the catastrophe on Sunday, declared: “I think this is the end for corralejas in El Espinal.”

Source: “Bullfight stands collapse, causing deaths and scores of injuries” by The Washington Post

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