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Former Radio 1 DJ Mike Smith dies, aged 59

Former Radio 1 presenter Mike Smith has died at the age of 59.

Mike Smith with wife Sarah Greene
Mike Smith with wife Sarah Greene

Smith, who was married to fellow television personality Sarah Greene, died in hospital on Friday from complications connected to his recent major heart surgery.

The couple, who married in 1989 and were childless, lived in London.

In a statement released through Smith's aerial filming company Flying TV, Ms Greene said she would "like to offer enormous thanks to the staff at the hospital for their care and compassion".

The statement said that Ms Greene has asked that she, her family and friends be allowed to mourn in peace.

A Flying TV spokesman said: "Mike founded Flying TV ten years ago and the company says his legacy will be FTV continuing to go from strength to strength."

Smith's career began at hospital radio before joining BBC Radio 1 in 1975.

In 1983, Smith took over the weekday lunchtime show and took on the Breakfast Show in 1986, succeeding Mike Read.

Smith was a key figure in the early years of Comic Relief but largely stayed away from the limelight after a helicopter crash which injured both himself and Ms Greene in 1988.

The qualified pilot and his then-girlfriend Ms Greene were injured when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in Gloucestershire.

Both passengers survived, although Ms Greene broke both legs and an arm, and Smith suffered a broken back and ankle.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded that "... examination of the helicopter (including flight control, fuel, engine control, dynamic systems and the engine itself) revealed no failure or unserviceability that could have resulted in a loss of rotor speed".

Smith proposed to Ms Greene just weeks later and they were married the following year.

A few fleeting appearances on BBC television shows aside, Smith spent much of his time working as managing director and aerial cameraman for Flying TV.

However last year he criticised Radio 1's music strategy, telling the Radio Times: ''They say they're going for a younger audience - that's just wrong. Relentlessly chasing youth is going to piss off more people than it will attract.

''I don't know why the BBC is slavishly following demographics invented by advertisers when they don't take advertising. They should target attitude, not age. Whatever age you are, chasing demographics is terrible news for listeners.''

Fellow Breakfast Show alumnus Read was among those to pay tribute to "affable, business-like" Smith today.

The DJ and television personality said: "The news is just devastating. Sarah and Mike were a wonderful couple - it is truly horrible to hear.

"I knew Mike as there were only five of us to have presented the Breakfast Show at that time.

"He became a mainstay of Radio 1, was highly successful on television too, and started up his own business which he was very good at.

"I worked with Sarah for a number of years, including around the time of the crash, so I was very fond of them both.

"The helicopter crash was really bad but they just got on with it and married.

"Mike was a very affable guy, fantastically business-like. It's a real loss and has come as quite a shock."

Johnny Beerling, the former controller of BBC Radio 1, described him "as a very versatile broadcaster and a very original one" as he could easily switch between radio and TV.

He added: "He was a wonderful broadcaster, a good lad, and we will miss him."

He recalled that Smith was good with a live audience, noting that "he was a very good racing driver as well, so he had good reactions" and could also pull off a good stunt.

Mr Beerling told BBC News: "On April 1 1986 he announced that he would have Prince playing live on his show.

Everybody got very excited about all of this - but it turned out not to be Prince the rock star, but Prince Edward, who was friendly with Mike."

Several former BBC colleagues paid tribute to Smith.

Simon Mayo, who took on the Breakfast Show when Smith left in 1988, wrote on Twitter: "Shocked to hear of Mike Smith's death today. Condolences to Sarah and all his family.

"When we joined Radio 1 in 86, he was the guy who had it all. His breakfast show was a shiny, sparkly thing, a must-listen."

Phillip Schofield, who presented Going Live! with Greene, added: "There are no words. My wonderful, bright, funny, thoughtful friend Mike Smith has passed away @RealSarahGreene I'm so so sorry my darling."

Author and broadcaster Sue Cook said: "Really sad to hear of the death of my old colleague and co-presenter Mike Smith. Taken far too young. Massive sympathies to @RealSarahGreene."

Showbiz veteran Keith Chegwin added: "Very sad news about Mike Smith. A nice man & great broadcaster. Condolences to Sarah & his family. Far too young #mikesmith."

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