Tributes to Bolton snooker league stalwart who died after cardiac arrest during match in Horwich

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A SNOOKER enthusiast has died after he suffered a cardiac arrest while playing the sport he loved.

Les Openshaw collapsed when playing a league match at St Mary’s Social and Recreation Club in Horwich. Two members of bar staff managed to resuscitate the 85 year old using a defibrillato that had been installed just a week earlier,  before paramedics arrived, but Mr Openshaw died nine days later in the Royal Bolton Hospital.

Despite their loss, Mr Openshaw’s family say they grateful for the chance to say goodbye and have now launched a fundraising campaign to buy more defibrillators for snooker clubs in Bolton. His daughter, Carol Shaw, of Heron Avenue in Farnworth, said: “If that defibrillator had not been there, he would have died there and then, and we would not have had chance to say goodbye. We’re just so grateful to the people who saved his life and gave us that chance to be with him during his final days. Now we want to help buy more defibrillators for other clubs in Bolton should the same thing happen to someone else.”

Mr Openshaw, who also lived in Heron Avenue, first learnt how to play snooker when he was 12 years old and carried on until he joined the RAF when he was aged 18. When he returned two years later, he made a name for himself as one Bolton’s best snooker players and went on to play in the Bolton League, Farnworth League and Swinton and Pendlebury League. Some of his finest achievements included beating professionals Fred Davis and Alex Higgins. Even when he lost his wife Barbara in 2009, he carried on playing.

Mrs Shaw, aged 69, said: “Snooker was his life. It was all he did in his spare time and had money not been issue, he probably could have become a professional. As a labourer he couldn’t afford to do it. It’s amazing that he carried on playing right up until he died.” Mr Openshaw’s family and fellow players from the Railway Snooker Club have now joined forces with the Bolton ICD Support Group to boost funds for defibrillators at other clubs. They have already raised £1,400, which is enough to buy five defibrillators.

Mr Openshaw’s son David, of Melrose Avenue in Heaton, said: “The thing is, you never think something like that will happen to you. A lot of us go around thinking we are indestructible but we’re not. You never know when you might need a defibrillator and the more there are around Bolton, the greater people’s chances of survival. We did lose our dad in the end, but he died with us all around him.”

Tracey Wilkinson, fundraiser at Bolton ICD Support Group, is helping friends and family purchase the defibrillators. She added: “I think it is fantastic what Les’s family and friends at The Railway Club are doing in memory of Les. It always amazes me how people deal with grief and loss of a loved one by doing something positive and working together to make a difference.”

The Railway Club is planning a snooker marathon on Saturday, May 10, and a charity night on Saturday, July 19.

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