By 3 News online staff
Veteran New Zealand broadcaster Phillip Leishman has died at the age of 61, after a battle with cancer.
Leishman had slipped into a coma in recent days after a rapid deterioration in his condition.
He had a brain tumour operated on in March last year.
Leishman’s good friend and fellow sports broadcaster Des Coppins says Leishman’s family are strong, and knew his death was coming, but they’re still devastated.
“He’s so proud of these kids and they’re all going through probably hell right now, but the fact for Phillip is that he’s going to miss out on a number of such important moments to their careers and to their lives,” says Coppins.
Coppins earlier told Fairfax that tributes to Leishman from members of the public had been flooding into the studio at Radio Trackside in recent days.
"It is sad not only for his family but judging from the calls from the public… it shows he was well loved and well respected," he said.
Another veteran broadcaster, Keith Quinn, has been a friend and colleague of Leishman for 30 years – and says he still has one of his last interviews.
“It’s Phillip Leishman at his absolute vintage best – he’s bright, he’s smiley, he’s funny. He remembers every race horse he ever had, he told stories about all his colleagues – myself included,” says Quinn.
He says Leishman was always immaculately dressed and thoroughly professional.
After first appearing on regional television in Dunedin in the 1970s, Leishman went on to host over a thousand episodes of the quiz show Wheel of Fortune, and covered the Olympic and Commonwealth games between 1976 and 1998.
In later life he had concentrated on sports programming and golf commentary.
He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011 for services to broadcasting and the community.
His is survived by his wife Michelle, and three children Harry, India and Lily.