El Espinal, Colombia, stadium collapses during bullfighting, leaving 4 dead, hundreds injured

ONE fiesta brava ended in disaster in Colombia on Sunday after a rudimentary stadium partially collapsed in the middle of a bullfight, sending hundreds of people to fall to the ground. At least four deaths were reported, with over 500 more people injured, according to the country’s largest newspaper.

The sudden collapse of the three-storey stadium was captured both live on local TV and by participants, who hurried to circulate clips on social media. Footage appears to show people, including several matadors, screaming and climbing to safety as the rickety wooden stands cool over, throwing some spectators dozens of feet to the ground.

Local authorities in El Espinal, a city southwest of Colombia’s capital, have not released an exact figure for the injured or killed. But early estimates fluctuated around as many as 500 people feared injury, El Tiempo reported.

Ricardo Orozco, Tolima’s governor, told local radio immediately after the incident that at least one child was among the dead, according to the Colombian outlet Red + Noticias.

The mayor of El Espinal, Juan Carlos Tamayo Salas, said authorities had responded to the scene and transported injured spectators to local hospitals.

It told a municipal councilor El Tiempo that first aid personnel and medical facilities had been overwhelmed by the accident. “We need support from ambulances and neighboring hospitals, many people are still unattended,” the newspaper told him.

At least one bull also escaped from the stadium in the ensuing chaos, sending locals to dive into cover as it ran down the city streets. It was not immediately clear whether officials were able to recapture the animal.

The bullfighting had apparently been arranged as a traditional one corraleja event, part of the festivities of a busy holiday, with Colombians observing the feasts of John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul, after celebrating the Sacred Heart.

Tolima’s director of civil defense told local media that several people had been injured, with at least one man left in critical condition, by the stadium’s bulls after jumping into the enclosure. It was unclear whether these injuries had occurred before or after the collapse, as spectators are traditionally encouraged to engage the bulls directly during a corraleja.

Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro tweeted a response to the crash, saying he wished those affected a speedy recovery. Referring to a notorious and similar incident in Sincelejo in 1980, which left more than 220 dead and 500 wounded, Petro asked local authorities not to approve further beef festivals.

Stadium collapses in rural parts of Colombia are rare, but not unheard of. In 2008, at least 80 people were injured after a crowded stadium collapsed during a bullfight in Planadas. An injured spectator told local media that the organizers had deliberately packed the venue beyond capacity that day, according to one Mirror report at that time.

Local authorities have begun investigating Sunday’s incident.