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(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Patrick Eccles, 20, of Logan was gored this week in 2013 during the running of the bulls in Pamplona. A year later he is back at the University of Utah and getting on with graduating.
After goring, Utahn now feeling ‘nearly nothing but gratefulness’

At the famous San Fermin festival in 2013, U. of U. student “was running with [the bulls] for zero seconds prior to being caught.”

First Published Jul 14 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jul 15 2014 09:53 am

University of Utah student Patrick Eccles caught a "quick glimpse" of a brown bull and saw runners fleeing ahead of him on a crowded Pamplona street before he felt a "thud" and his feet left the ground.

The moment he was gored went viral, captured in dramatic photos of the sixth running of the bulls at last year’s San Fermin festival in Spain.

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After hitting the ground, "I wasn’t really certain what had happened, but was in excruciating pain and soon realized everyone was looking at me somewhat horrified," remembers Eccles, 21.

After his initial recovery and overcoming a painful complication months later, Eccles is preparing for his final year of work on a degree in computer science at the U. He recounted his story in an email exchange, with excerpts edited for length, as the annual festival highlighted in "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway wrapped up in Spain.

Eccles had been participating in an eight-week internship program through Barcelona Study Abroad Experience when he realized he would have free time to travel during the San Fermin festival. He decided to take his "cheapest option" — traveling alone mid-week. But in a fortunate coincidence, he ran into a friend from his hometown of Logan just before the running of the bulls began.

Tribune: Did you consider that you may end up injured?

Eccles: I had ... but more I considered myself a healthy, athletic, non-dimwitted person. I had also spoken with some of the people from Barcelona I’d come to know over the previous month and it seemed that with caution, care, and spry feet I would be fine.

Tribune: Describe the scene on the streets. Where were you positioned?

Eccles: There were tons and tons of people in the streets and on the sides of the streets looking in from outside of the fences. I had decided to be near the beginning of the route, a ways past the first hill and bend.

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Once the rockets sounded, the runners and the observers crane their necks down the street. ... Then slowly, as the crowd gets moving, everyone turns and begins running down the street expecting the group of bulls to be following up quickly. And that certainly happened. Very quickly.

I suppose I was running with them for zero seconds prior to being caught.

Tribune: Can you walk me through those moments when it happened? Did it hurt as much as it looked?

Eccles: Normally [the bulls] are packed together as they run up the street, but this bull had broken out on its own and took the first bend very quickly with its momentum carrying it to the side I was on.

As I was turning for my glance behind, I felt a thud as my feet lifted off the ground and watched the wall opposite me move past a bit quicker than normal. With another thud I smacked onto the ground and crawled out of the lane underneath the thick wooden fence.

Turning over I lay on my back. I wasn’t really certain what had happened, but was in excruciating pain and soon realized everyone was looking at me somewhat horrified. ... My entire self was focused on handling the pain and handling the overwhelming feeling that this totally sucked.

[An emergency worker reached Eccles "almost immediately" and he was transported to a hospital by ambulance. The phone that he appeared to be clutching in the photos was a video camera, he said, and it was lost. His friend from Logan made the initial call to his family.]

Tribune: When were you first able to contact your family?

Eccles: At some point [in the hospital] a nurse brought a phone over to me and that was when I first spoke to my family and first learned about what had happened. My family [members] were justifiably upset, scared, and worried. It was a difficult phone call on a number of levels.

Tribune: When did you hear that your spleen had been removed?

Eccles: I think it may not have been until later that I understood that my spleen was now gone. The horn of the bull had entered through my side into my abdominal cavity and luckily exited the same way. Someone told me that the thrust of a bull is two parts, the initial thrust and the second toss. This quick action effectively split my spleen in two. ... I am completely blessed to even be alive.

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