ASpanish village’s attempt to invent a “cruelty-free” version of bull-running by replacing the animals with giant balls has ended in tragedy after two people were seriously injured.
One man was left in a coma after sustaining a serious head injury when he was crushed against metal barriers by the 300-kilogramme resin ball which chased runners around the town of Mataelpino, near Madrid during the event over the weekend.
Another man suffered three broken ribs and concussion.
The mayor of Mataelpino, whose idea of substituting in the balls – painted with bull’s faces – seven years ago has been emulated by other Spanish towns, has said the council will review its safety protocols before next year’s event.
The ball runs down more down 500 metres of sloping streets reaching a top speed of around 20 miles per hour.
But Mayor Javier Pérez de los Nietos also warned participants not to take the ball running lightly despite the absence of sharp horns and thundering hooves.
“We are going to review all of our security measures and boost the information given out because people have started coming here from all over the world. We don’t want this to become a tragic event, but rather something fun,” Mayor Pérez de los Nietos told the Spanish newspaper El País.
Videos of the event showed how the ball, three metres in diameter, smashed into metal barriers on a corner of the route, squashing a young man who sank to the ground amid screams from onlookers. He is reported to have suffered a fractured skull and placed in an induced coma by doctors fighting to save his life.
The other man who was seriously injured on Saturday has since been released from hospital.
Mayor Pérez de los Nietos admitted that one change could see a different material used for the barriers, traditionally made of sturdy iron to afford a solid defence against raging bulls
Around 700 people are said to have attended Saturday’s adult run, with a children’s event taking place the previous day with a much lighter rubber ball.