Bullfighter denies consuming alcohol on night of fatal accident

José Ortega Cano says he only "wet lips" with glass of cava

José Ortega Cano during the trial on Tuesday.
José Ortega Cano during the trial on Tuesday. Julian Rojas

José Ortega Cano, the bullfighter accused of causing the accidental death of a man while driving under the influence, told a Seville court this week that he had not touched a drop of alcohol on the night of the incident.

"I have been completely forbidden to touch alcohol by the doctors who treated me," he said. "I only wet my lips with a glass [...] I drank no alcohol, only a Coca-Cola. For me, it's poison."

The matador, a favorite of Spain's gossip magazines, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and two road safety misdemeanors after being involved in the fatal road accident on the night of May 20, 2011. According to the prosecutor, Ortega Cano had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood and was traveling at 125 kilometers an hour on a 90km/h highway when the accident occurred. The prosecution is demanding four years in prison for the crime.

Two years ago, Ortego Cano was driving back to his home in Castilblanco de los Arroyos, Seville province, when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed head on into a car driven by Carlos Parra. The bullfighter was seriously injured and Parra was killed.

Ortego Cano said he remembered nothing of what happened prior to the crash. "Something strange happened to me," he told the court. "I don't have any knowledge of the impact of the accident, nor of what happened there [...] If I am conscious and I am going to hit a car, I am going to throw myself off the cliff first."

Several drivers told the investigating judge that the matador's car had overtaken them in a dangerous manner on the night of the incident. One even called the emergency services to warn them about the alarming way he was driving.

Ortego Cano tried to dispel the prosecution's doubts by questioning the results of the alcohol test. "What I'm telling them is the pure truth. What has emerged from the blood tests, maybe is or isn't. I have been dealt a terrible injustice for being a man in the public eye [...] If I want to die, all I have to do is drink alcohol."

Ortego Cano had in fact admitted to consuming alcohol on the night of the incident during the preliminary investigation of the case. "I drank less than half a glass of cava [...] It is a very small quantity and I don't think it affected the medicine I was taking," he said. He has also admitted to suffering a bout of alcoholism after the death of his wife, the singer Rocío Jurado: "I sought refuge in drink for a few months, but it later went away forever."

Now, he told the court, that he wasn't planning on "taking the car ever again." A week ago, he was caught giving a lift to his current partner and their baby without using a regulation child seat.

Ortego Cano's defense tried to discredit the evidence that he had been driving under the influence that night and explained that the blood test was not legal as it had been carried out for medical purposes rather than to check for alcohol. Judge Sagrario Romero indicated he would pronounce upon the issue in the sentence. The case is set to continue until next Tuesday.

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