A 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 tumbling to the ground. At least four deaths were announced by authorities, with subsequent reports of the number of injured varying wildly, ranging between dozens and hundreds.
The three-tiered stadium’s sudden collapse was captured both live on local television and by attendees, who rushed to circulate clips on social media. Footage appears to show people, including several matadors, screaming and scrambling to safety as the rickety stands keel over, throwing some spectators violently to the ground, and crushing others beneath wooden slats.
— Noticias 507 y El Mundo (@agrimensuraferg) June 26, 2022
Local authorities in El Espinal, a city southwest of Colombia’s capital city Bogotá, have not released an exact figure for those wounded or killed. As many as 500 were immediately feared hurt, according to the country’s largest newspaper, but the figure was later revised down by some outlets to as low as 30.
By Sunday night, the newspaper, El Tiempo, reported that 262 people had been “affected” by the collapse.
Ricardo Orozco, Tolima’s governor, told local radio in the immediate aftermath of the incident that at least one child had been counted among those dead, according to Colombian outlet Red+ Noticias.
The mayor of El Espinal, Juan Carlos Tamayo Salas, said authorities had responded to the scene, transporting injured spectators to local hospitals.
A local councillor told El Tiempo that first responders and medical facilities had been overwhelmed by the accident. “We need support from ambulances and neighboring hospitals, many people are still unattended,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Tragedia en el Espinal Tolima pic.twitter.com/UoQBncCm1F
— Elizabeth Cristina Ortiz Peña (@ElizbethCristi7) June 26, 2022
At least one bull also escaped the stadium in the ensuing chaos, sending local residents diving for cover as it charged down city streets. It was not immediately clear whether officials were able to recapture the animal.
The bullfight had apparently been arranged as a traditional corraleja event, part of the festivities of a busy holiday season, with Colombians observing the feast days of St. John the Baptist, St. Peter, and St. Paul, having just celebrated Sacred Heart.
Tolima’s director of civil defense told local media that several people had been wounded, with at least one man left in critical condition, by the stadium’s bulls after jumping into the corral. It was unclear whether those injuries had occurred before or after the collapse, as spectators are traditionally encouraged to engage the bulls directly during a corraleja.
The president-elect of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, tweeted out a response to the accident, saying he wished those affected a swift recovery. Referencing an infamous and similar incident in Sincelejo in 1980, which left more than 220 dead and 500 wounded, Petro implored local government officials not to authorize further bull festivals.
Espero que todas las personas afectadas por el derrumbe de la plaza de El Espinal puedan salir airosas de sus heridas.
Esto ya había sucedido antes en Sincelejo.
Le solicito a las alcaldías no autorizar más espectáculos con la muerte de personas o animales. pic.twitter.com/dMAq6uqlKX
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) June 26, 2022
Stadium collapses in rural parts of Colombia are rare but not unheard of. In 2008, at least 80 people were injured after an overcrowded stadium collapsed during a bullfight in Planadas. An injured spectator told local media that organizers had deliberately packed the venue past capacity, according to a Mirror report at the time.
Local authorities have launched an investigation into Sunday’s incident.