Legendary broadcaster Phillip Leishman has fallen into a coma as a result of cancer, according to close friend Des Coppins.
"It was an aggressive form of cancer and it really caught up with him," Coppins, horse racing personality and broadcaster, said. "It is just so sad."
Leishman, formerly from Timaru, is being cared for at his home in Auckland surrounded by his family.
"The family are really special people. We are all still praying for him," said Coppins."
Leishman had a brain tumour operated on in March 2012 and it was hoped he could recover. But the cancer returned and Leishman became seriously ill again last week.
Coppins, who was Best Man at Leishman's wedding, travelled to Auckland as soon as he heard his condition had deteriorated.
"I've seen him three times this week. He was speaking very softly," Coppins said.
Coppins said they spoke about horses Leishman had racing this weekend.
"Now he has shut down completely," he said.
Coppins got his first broadcasting job through Leishman and the two had been friends for over 30 years.
"We had so many laughs on camera and off camera," he said.
Tributes from the public has been pouring into the Radio Trackside studio today, Coppins said.
"It is sad not only for his family but judging from the calls from the public today...it shows he was well loved and well respected."
Leishman has been a regular on New Zealand screens since making his first television appearance on Dunedin regional station DNTV2.
From there he moved to the nightly network bulletin as a sports news presenter, covering Olympic and Commonwealth Games between 1976 and 1998.
He worked on Turf Talk with Glynn Tucker in the mid to late 1970s, and hosted 1250 episodes of quiz show Wheel of Fortune alongside Lana Coc-Kroft in the early and mid 1990s.
In 1997 he joined up with journalist Phil Smith to form company Uplink, now Sportinc, to produce the golf programme which he has described as probably his most satisfying role.
In 2011 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to broadcasting and the community.
- The Timaru Herald