NEWARK, N.J. — Devotees of Mexican-style rodeos are planning a memorial show this week for a popular young rider thrown from a bull and killed during a rodeo in southern New Jersey.
Rigoberto Flores, 24, of Brentwood, N.Y., was killed Sunday while performing at a rodeo in Bridgeton.
Flores was one of the most well-known stars on the rodeo's East Coast circuit, according to rodeo organizer Jesus Santiago.
Known to his fans as "El Andariego" or "The Wanderer of Izucar Matamoros, Puebla" – the city in the Mexican state of Puebla where he was from – Flores was a fan favorite for his rodeo skills, youthful enthusiasm and clean-cut reputation, according to Santiago.
"He was a good man, very responsible; he didn't drink, never did drugs and took great pride in his work," Santiago said in Spanish.
Santiago said about 700 to 800 people were packed into the rodeo venue at Dutch Neck Village and watched as Flores was thrown from a bull.
"He got up on the bull, and everything was going well," Santiago said. "But when he fell off, the bull stepped on top of him; the bull fell on its front knees, right onto him on the side where the heart is, and the medics said his heart couldn't withstand the pressure."
Flores was rushed to a hospital in nearby Vineland, where he was pronounced dead.
The Jaripeos – or small, community rodeos – that Flores participated in have exploded in popularity across the United States in recent years with the influx of Latin American immigrants, largely from Mexico, where the sport is extremely popular in small ranching and farming towns.
The New Jersey rodeo that Flores was in Sunday was established about 20 years, according to Santiago, but attendance has steadily grown in recent years.
Flores was a popular, well-known rider on a circuit that includes shows from North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware to New York, Illinois, Texas and New Jersey. He also had a big following in Puebla, where Mexican fans followed his moves on YouTube clips filmed at U.S. rodeos and posted online.
Rodeo organizers are busy are planning a memorial rodeo tribute for Flores, Santiago said, so they can help his family pay to send his body home to Mexico for burial and to offer some financial support to Flores' pregnant wife and young daughter.