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Renowned Matador Iván Fandiño Gored to Death in French Bull Ring

Spain's royal family paid tribute to the renowned bullfighter Iván Fandiño, who was gored to death Saturday during a fight in France.

Fandiño, 36, of Orduña in the Basque region of Bilbao, stumbled over his cape and was left defenseless during a fight at the Aire-sur-l'Adour festival in southwest France.

Image: Ivan Fandino
Spanish matador Ivan Fandino is impaled by a Baltasar Iban bull during a bullfight at Aire-sur-l'Adour arena Saturday in southwestern France. Iroz Gaizka / AFP - Getty Images

The bull gored Fandiño in the chest, puncturing a lung, the news agency Agence France-Presse reported. He died after having suffered at least two heart attacks in the ambulance that rushed him to a hospital, it said.

The death of Fandiño, a toreador renowned for his willingness to confront bulls deemed too dangerous by other bullfighters, was front-page news across Spain on Sunday.

The famed bullfighter Enrique Ponce called Fandiño a torerazor, or "super matador," AFP reported, while King Felipe VI and the Spanish royal family called him a "great figure in bullfighting" in a tribute on Twitter.

Animal rights activists had a different take, however.

In a statement, Humane Society International called Fandiño's death a "tragedy," but it said: "For the 1,000 bulls brutally killed in French bullfights every year, every single fight is a tragedy in which they have no chance of escaping a protracted and painful death.

Image: Ivan Fandino
Spanish matador Ivan Fandino is assisted after he was gored by a Baltasar Iban bull at Aire-sur-l'Adour arena Saturday in southwestern France. Iroz Gaizka / AFP - Getty Images

"Bloodsports like this should be consigned to the history books," it said. "No one should lose their life for entertainment, human or animal."

And comedian Ricky Gervais, whom People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals once named its Person of the Year, tweeted a picture of the event with the line: "Beautiful tortured bull defends itself."

The incident occurred less than a year after another famed bullfighter, Victor Barrio, 29, was fatally gored at the Pamplona festival on live Spanish TV.