Tributes paid to chauffeur who died after collapsing

Tragedy: Marc Smith set up his Chauffeur2Go business in 2002. He died after collapsing outside Ewood Park while waiting for Blackburn executive Balaji Rao
Tragedy: Marc Smith set up his Chauffeur2Go business in 2002. He died after collapsing outside Ewood Park while waiting for Blackburn executive Balaji Rao

A chauffeur behind the wheel of a Leyland business died of a suspected heart attack as he waited outside a football ground for his clients.

Marc Smith, 42, from Bamber Bridge, was stood next to one of his executive vehicles having driven members of the Rao family, the owners of Blackburn Rovers, to the club’s Ewood Park stadium on Saturday.

But towards the end of the match he suddenly collapsed.

He was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital where he died a short time later.

The father-of-one, who has a young daughter, worked for the family, who own Indian food giant Venky’s.

He ran Leyland-based Chauffeur2Go executive hire business, which also saw him provide vehicles for celebrities at major events across Britain.

Friend Phil Griffiths, 38, who owns an equestrian business in Clayton-le-Dale, near Blackburn, said Mr Smith would often stop at his shop while driving Blackburn Rovers players to and from training sessions. He said: “I actually saw him last Wednesday.

“He was just a really nice guy.

“He had a very dry sense of humour but he would do anything for anyone.

“He was the nicest guy you could ever meet. I was just devastated and shocked.”

Ilyas Patel is chairman of the Preston-based Business Breakfast Club, which Mr Smith was a member of for many years, said: “He was a really nice guy, he would go out of his way for you and he was well connected to everyone.

“He had a young daughter who adored him. I was very saddened.”

Celebrity chef Paul Heathcote was driven by Mr Smith for around 18 months.

Mr Smith regularly visited Heathcote restaurants, which is where the two met and became friends.

Mr Heathcote said: “He used to drive us around occasionally.

“Strangely, I would have been using him for my wife’s birthday.

“Most drivers are not always as cheerful as Mark. He was always good fun.

“I heard it on Twitter on Saturday evening.

“It was a shock to hear it on there.

“Our thoughts are with the family and Marc’s close friends. He’ll be missed.”

A number of people also paid tribute to the driver, who had recently moved to Cumbria, on social networking site, Twitter.

Michael Finnigan, the New Longton-based owner of coaching firm i2i, said: “He drove me just last week and seemed very happy with his life. So sorry.”

Last week, Mr Smith had been driving Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a member of the Saudi royal family, during a visit to Blackburn.