Willie Thorne: 'larger than life' snooker great dead at 66

    Thorne became an important figure in the snooker world in the 1980s.

    (CNN)Willie Thorne, who played a key role in snooker's rebirth, passed away at a hospital in Spain on Wednesday following a battle with leukemia.

    Briton Thorne, 66, had been in an induced coma in an intensive care unit since Monday after suffering respiratory failure, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for his medical treatment.
    He died at 1.55 a.m. Wednesday after doctors turned off his machines, said Thorne's carer Julie O'Neill, who had been posting regular updates on the fundraising page since mid-April.
      "I was with him all the way to his end and reading out messages to him from people," wrote O'Neill.
        "He passed away very peacefully and without pain listening to his children saying they love him. That gives me some comfort in this difficult time."
        Thorne died at a hospital in Spain.
        Thorne shot to fame during the 1980s snooker boom and was one of the most recognizable players in the sport, according to a statement from the World Snooker Tour (WST).
        "His gregarious nature made him one of the snooker-loving public's favourite characters as the sport thrived," reads the statement.
        Born in Leicester, Thorne was friends with former England international Gary Lineker.
        "Deeply, deeply saddened to hear that my friend Willie Thorne has passed away," tweeted Lineker, who began his professional career at Leicester City. "One of life's great characters. A marvelous snooker player and a lovely man, who's potted his final black much too soon. RIP Willie."
        Thorne was known for his trick shots and enjoyed entertaining the crowd. He worked as a television commentator for over 30 years and appeared on the 2007 edition of UK celebrity ballroom dancing show "Strictly Come Dancing."
        He later ran into financial trouble, admitting to borrowing up to £1 million ($1.26 million) after developing a gambling addiction, reports PA Media.
          WST Chairman Barry Hearn spoke fondly of his time managing Thorne in the 1980s.
          "He was a larger than life personality and he was a major part of the rebirth of snooker at that time," said Hearn. "It's so sad to hear he has passed away and our thoughts are with his family."