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Cloverdale fire chief, volunteer talk about scary moments after bull escaped; Sisters Rodeo will see if any changes needed

(Update: Adding video, comments from Cloverdale RFPD chief, volunteers)

Cloverdale fire chief says few people were where bull went 'on a dead run' to get back to his friends

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) – Some things went awfully wrong when a bull jumped a fence and escaped from the Sisters Rodeo arena late in Saturday night’s performance and ran through a concession area – but it could have been far worse just minutes earlier, when a much larger crowd was lined up for refreshments.

That’s because just about everyone wanted to be up in the stands to watch the bull-riding event, the grand finale of competition each night of the 84th Sisters Rodeo performance, Cloverdale Rural Fire District Chief Thad Olsen said Sunday.

At least five people were injured, but the Sisters Rodeo Association said all who had been taken to the hospital were back home Sunday.

“We’re so lucky that it was during the bulls,” when there were far fewer people in the concession area, and not earlier in the show, Olsen said. “Had it been 25 minutes earlier, people were lined up getting their popcorn, drinks, beers, getting ready to watch the bulls.”

Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District medics transported two people who had contact with the bull, Olsen said, while “we evaluated four people total and transported two that were from the bull.” Also, a Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy was treated for a knee injury.

The Cloverdale RFPD staffs a first-aid station in the concession stands area to provide any needed medical care for the rodeo fans, while the Sisters-Camp Sherman department has a contract with the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, which sanctions the event, and an ambulance on standby during shows to care for the contestants.

“We hear screams,” Olsen recalled – and at first, “I’m thinking, ‘Oh, someone did a really good ride!” I look up – and people are running up the grandstands, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell?’”

Olsen said he started climbing up the back of the grandstands, “to get a better perspective,” when he could barely make out the rodeo announcer telling everyone a bull has gotten loose and to move to safety.

“I yell down to my guys, ‘Get out of the way!’ – and not five seconds later, the bull flies by,” and the “pickup guys (on horseback) are on his tail,” along with others wanting to help corral the animal, Olsen said.

About 15 seconds later, in a horrifying moment caught on video from at least three angles, a woman was struck by the bull and flung into the air, tossed for a frightening moment like a rag doll. Fortunately, a firefighter-paramedic was within 10 feet and quickly began treating her.

“The bull wasn’t malicious about it,” the fire chief said. “He was going back to where the rest of his buddies were. So he was only loose for like 30 seconds ... He ran out the gate for the beer garden, back to where the stock was.”

Cloverdale RFPD volunteer Kane Ettel said Monday, "I'd say I was a little bit worried, being a person that's not in the rodeo, It's a pretty big animal. So I was a little bit nervous when it came around."

Meanwhile, all on hand quickly moved into ‘triage mode” to sort out what they were hearing and to find and care for those injured.

“I’m very proud of the response that we had,” Olsen said. “I honestly think the organizers and the cowboys, even the bullfighters jumped out and tried to do what they could, as quickly as possible. The response was so quick – everybody did their jobs.”

Rodeo officials say they are always looking to make sure they put on the best and safest rodeo.

Vice president Brian Witt said, "If it (the fence) was seven feet, he would have cleared that, too. But this is designed for the safety of all our spectators. We think it's done extremely well for us. We'll take a look at it. If we need to make improvements, we certainly will."

Olsen said the people who work with the bulls familiarize them with the arenas. But this one, named Party Bus, wasn’t cooperating when it was time for the next cowboy's ride and actually laid down in the chute. So they “opened the door to let him back in the pen. ... It’s kind of a one-way thing,” he said, a system not made to back bulls out the way they came in.

“He wasn’t malicious, targeting people,” the fire chief said. “He was on a dead run to get the heck out of there and back to the pen with all his friends."

As for the bull, Party Bus, he's back home at a ranch in Moses Lake, Washington with his contractor.  Whether he continues to perform is up to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. 

Article Topic Follows: Sisters

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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