SALT LAKE CITY — Vince Eccles first learned that his son had participated in the Running of the Bulls in Spain when he got a phone call at 4 a.m. Friday informing him that his son was in the hospital.
"It's something we had told him not to do," Vince Eccles said.
University of Utah student Patrick Eccles, 20, was among three people injured Friday during the annual event in Pamplona. Eccles was gored in the stomach during the half-mile run.
Navarra Hospital chief Javier Sesma said doctors removed Eccles' spleen after it was found that the bull's horn had gone through the abdominal cavity and punctured the nonvital, blood-filtering organ. He said Eccles was reported to be stable.
Two Spaniards were also seriously injured Friday after being gored by bulls during the country's San Fermin festival.
One Spaniard who had been pinned to the ground was gored three times — in the groin, knee and thigh, Sesma said.
"The injuries are not as serious as one would have expected on seeing the televised footage," he said.
Vince Eccles had not seen video of his son being injured Friday. But he had seen photographs. He told the Deseret News he had already been hurting for his son, but the pictures made him "hurt for him more."
The Logan man said his family was worried and shocked when they learned what had happened. But Friday afternoon, he was able to talk to his son on the phone from his hospital bed in Spain.
"He said he felt fine after the surgery," the elder Eccles said.
The injuries are not as serious as one would have expected on seeing the televised footage.
The fact that he participated in the Running of the Bulls was somewhat surprising to Eccles, because he said his son really isn't the thrill-seeking type.
"He's a serious student and maybe a romantic," his father said.
Patrick Eccles was valedictorian of his graduating class at Logan High School. He played on the football and soccer teams and participated in student government. He will be a junior at the University of Utah in the fall and was recently accepted into the School of Architecture.
Patrick was participating in an internship in Barcelona, Spain, this summer for a computer company, helping to develop apps for Android devices, his father said. He was living in an apartment with other college students. Eccles said his son was really enjoying his time in Spain, was learning a lot and doing well.
Once his internship was over, Patrick Eccles had plans to tour Spain for an additional two weeks.
"He probably will want to stay," his father said.
But the family was working on plans Friday to have either Patrick Eccles' mother or father fly to Spain when he is released to bring him home. That decision may also depend on whether the doctor believes the injured man can withstand the uncomfortable, long plane ride home in his condition. Otherwise, Eccles said his son may have to "take it easy" at his Barcelona apartment until he's healthy enough to travel.
Dozens of people are injured each year in the "encierros," as the runs are called in Spanish.
Dozens of people are injured each year in the "encierros," as the runs are called in Spanish. Most get hurt after tripping and falling in the rush. The fighting bulls used in the centuries-old fiesta can weigh up to at 1,380 pounds and have killed 15 people since record-keeping began in 1924.
One loose bull caused particular panic Friday in the packed streets of the city of Pamplona when it charged a 31-year-old Spaniard, Diego Miralles, and tossed him on the ground with its horns for almost 30 seconds as fellow runners tried to pull it away by its tail. The man clung to one of the horns as screams were heard all around.
Helpers eventually dragged the victim to safety by his feet.
In addition to the goring of Eccles, Miralles and another Spaniard, the regional government of Navarra said another American and two Spaniards were also taken to city hospitals for other injuries suffered in falls and trampling during the frenzied event.
Friday's event lasted just under five minutes, roughly double the normal length. Longer runs normally occur when some of the bulls get separated from the pack and become disoriented and more dangerous.
The black bull that caused the most panic Friday made several more attempts to charge people before he was eventually guided along the narrow streets to join the rest of the pack in the pen of the packed bull ring.
The bulls that take part each morning are invariably killed by matadors in evening bull fights, and their meat is served up in Pamplona's restaurants.
Contributing: Associated Press