San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. citizen sent to hospital after bullfight in Nosara Festival

A U.S. man was brutally gored by the first bull of the night last Saturday evening at a Costa Rican-style bullfight during the Fiestas de Nosara, an annual festival in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

Brent Cropper, 29, was on an extended vacation in Costa Rica from the U.S. state of Delaware when he was twice struck by the bull, which missed his jugular by centimeters. Medical personnel escorted Cropper out of the ring with serious injuries to the neck and abdomen.

A family member vacationing with Cropper told The Tico Times that he has undergone two surgeries. One was a neck surgery, and the other required an incision from his armpit all the way down his side. He is now recovering at the Hospital de la Anexión in Nicoya, according to Cropper’s sister-in-law, Jozie Root.

“He’ll have scars, but he’ll love that,” Root said.

Cropper is apparently the kind of guy who will do just about anything -– one time he ate a live frog on a dare. But on the night of the goring, Cropper didn’t appear to be taking significant risks. He was one of dozens of other people who wandered inside the bullring, some with beers in hand, as is traditional in Costa Rican bullfighting. Here, spectators are more likely to be injured than bulls, which are never slain.

Upon the customary call of “Puerta!” (meaning the gate will open), a menacing bull ran out bucking in tight circles, his rider jerking above him. After about 12 seconds, the bull cast off his rider and tore off for the fence, scattering the surrounding men.

In a YouTube video posted by attendants, Cropper clearly can be seen in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bull lifted Cropper’s body off the ground with its horns and tossed him in the air like a pizza. When Cropper hit the ground, the bull gored him a second time.

Cropper stood up and tried to get away, then fell to the ground again. People in the video can be heard screaming, and one woman in the front row was particularly traumatized. “It happened so fast, I was shocked,” said Andrea Rincón, a 28-year-old San José resident from Colombia who had never seen a bullfight. “I almost cried because it was so violent.”

Cropper’s wife, Debbie, jumped off the fence and ran to assist the man she had married just four months before. “If the bull did come near her, she probably would have killed it,” Root said. “She just wanted to get to Brent.”

“He was very lucky,” said Jorge Mario Herrera, a Red Cross doctor who treated Cropper ringside before transporting him to the hospital.

After paramedics stabilized Cropper, his wife was able to calm down. Root, however, was still a wreck.

“The whole thing was just awful,” she said. “I needed a cigarette.”

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