Run-in with Pamplona bull made American ‘fear for my life’

PAMPLONA, Spain — The desire to have a selfie as a souvenir from running with the bulls in Spain turned into a near-death experience an American lawyer says he’ll never forget.

A charging bull ran over and gored San Francisco resident Jaime Alvarez in the neck during the first run of this year’s San Fermin festival in Pamplona, an event immortalized by writer Ernest Hemingway nearly a century ago.

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“The joy and the excitement of being in the bullring quickly turned into a scare, into real fear for my life,” Alvarez, 46, said Monday at a regional hospital where he was recovering from surgery.

Doctors told Alvarez the bull’s horn went deep into his neck and fractured part of a cheekbone. That it didn’t hit the jugular vein or major arteries was described to the injured patient as “beyond miraculous.”

Alvarez, who works as a public defender in Santa Clara County, California, said he realized how severely he’d been hurt during his encounter with the bull Sunday morning when he touched his neck and his hand came away covered with blood.

“In the course of a few seconds, a million thoughts came to my mind, and that of dying was definitely one of them,” he said.

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Once it appeared certain he would live, the run-in brought rebukes from Alvarez’s wife and daughter. The three stopped in Pamplona to check out the famous San Fermin festival while in route to another city where the couple’s son was playing in a soccer tournament.

While his daughter and wife cautioned him against joining the crowd that would race the bulls, Alvarez said the energy in the streets of Pamplona on the festival’s opening day was too strong to resist. The running of the bulls — and the nine days of seamless partying that accompanies the festival — draws about 1 million spectators to the city of 200,000 every year.

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