By Joseph J. Kolb
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A 20-year-old college bullrider has been killed in an accident during a practice session at his university's rodeo arena after being thrown from a 2,000-pound bucking bull and then stepped on by the animal, a university spokesman said on Friday.
Irvyng Urquijo, a sophomore and a member of the Eastern New Mexico University rodeo team, died on Tuesday in Portales after the accident. He was the first U.S. collegiate bullrider to be killed in a decade.
According to university spokesman Adam Pittman, this was the first year Urquijo, 20, was on the university's rodeo team. He did not know Urquijo's level of experience, but said he had yet to complete a full eight-second ride.
"My guess is that he was experienced because they wouldn't put him on a bull if he wasn't," Pittman said.
In 2003, 18-year-old Roland Ellsworth was thrown from a bull and killed while competing for Eastern New Mexico University in a rodeo competition in Alpine, Texas. Ellsworth, like Urquijo, had been wearing protective gear including a Kevlar shield to absorb the impact of a bull's horns or hooves.
A spokesman for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association said Urquijo and Ellsworth were the only fatalities in collegiate bullriding in just over a decade.
It has been customary for more than 10 years that bullriders on all levels wear a protective Kevlar vest, but a physician who provides medical care at rodeos for the Justin Sports Medicine team said they do have their limitations.
"I have seen hundreds of bullriders saved while wearing the vest but they don't protect the stomach region," said the physician, Brad Adams of Pendleton, Oregon.
He said, however, it was possible for the hoof of the bull to slide off the bottom edge of the vest and cause extensive abdominal injuries.
The university could not disclose where Urquijo had been injured, but they did confirm his body had been sent to the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque for an autopsy.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and G Crosse)