TRIBUTES have been paid to a Kirkby Stephen chauffeur who died from a suspected heart attack outside Blackburn Rovers’ ground.

Marc Smith, 42, was standing next to his car when he collapsed just before the match against Peterborough ended on Saturday.

He had been waiting to pick up Rovers' managing director Balaji Rao, who had been watching the game inside Ewood Park.

Dad-of-one Marc , who drove for a string of celebrities, was rushed to Royal Blackburn Hospital, but he could not be saved.

During the incident, steward Russell Davies also fell ill and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.

Rovers' global adviser Shebby Singh said: "The Venky's are deeply upset, shocked and saddened by the event and all our thoughts and wishes are with Marc's family and friends at this sad time.

"We wish to send out our deepest respect and condolences."

The Venky's are now planning to lay a wreath in his memory at a future game.

The Everton fan had been driving the Venky’s to and from Rovers games since they took over the club in 2010.

A colleague from Marc’s company Chauffeur 2 Go, based in Leyland, said: “Marc was on good terms with the Venky’s. He had an excellent relationship with them.

“The Venky’s are really shocked that Marc has died, everybody is.

“He collapsed just before the party came out.

“Paramedics jumped to his aid as quickly as they could and he was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

“As far as I am aware he did not regain consciousness.

“I have spoken to his family and as far as I am aware, they did not get to see him.

“Marc was a lovely, down-to-earth man.

“It is awful what has happened. The only consolation was that it happened quickly.”

Marc was born in Bamber Bridge but had moved to Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. He leaves girlfriend Marie Carlin and daughter Lana, seven.

His company, which was set up in 2002, offers luxury car travel for business and celebrities.

Paul Agnew, operations director at Blackburn Rovers, said: "It was a very sad day at Ewood Park in relation to off the field incidents in so much as one of the drivers responsible for bringing the owners backwards and forwards to the game from the airport, has suffered what we think was a fatal heart attack just before the end of the ninety minutes out side the ground.

"Obviously the game was going on but my understanding is that they had the call to get the cars ready for the end of the match to take the owners back to the airport.

“The chap in question was standing by one of the cars and collapsed on the spot.

"The paramedics were at the scene within seconds, an ambulance was called and he was taken to the hospital.

"If that wasn't enough, one of our long-standing stewards, who has also had heart problems, has been taken to the hospital as well."

Messages poured in on Facebook as the news of Marc’s death spread on social networking sites.

David Kevill said: “RIP Cabbie Marc. What terrible news. A great guy who will be missed by everyone who knew him.”

And Linda Merrills said: “Sad news, Marc was such a character RIP.”