A COMMUNITY has been left in shock after a popular young family doctor died while on a ski-ing holiday.
Dr Geoffrey Yates, a GP at the health centre in Great Harwood, was a keen skier and had travelled to a resort in Canada with a group of his closest friends.
He died suddenly, of natural causes, just weeks before his 39th birthday.
Dr Yates, who was born and brought up on his parents' farm in Great Harwood, joined Dr Susan Upton and Dr Mohammed Rahman at the Water Street health centre in October 2004 and was a popular and well-respected member of the team.
He attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Blackburn, before embarking on his medical training at St George's College, London.
He had originally planned a hospital medical career but decided that his heart lay in community medicine and started GP training, going on to work as a locum before joining the Great Harwood practice.
Staff at the health centre this week released a statement paying tribute to their colleague.
It reads: "Within a very short time he became a respected, trusted and highly valued family doctor and friend to many patients.
"Dr Yates was a great asset and was dedicated to the care of the people of the town. His family, medical partners, staff, colleagues, patients and friends will miss him greatly."
Former Great Harwood councillor, Win Frankland, said she remembered Dr Yates as a youngster.
She added: "It is just tragic, everybody is really shocked."
A minute's silence was held in his memory at the start of Tuesday's Great Harwood Area Council meeting, where Dr Rahman, also a councillor, paid tribute to his work colleague.
He said: "Geoff was the finest young man you could find. He was so kind and never had a bad word to say about anybody. When we heard the bad news we couldn't sleep.
"We will miss him and I am sure the community will miss him. I would like to send our sympathy from this meeting to his mother, brother and sisters."
Dr Yates, who lived at the family home Belmont Farm in Clinkham Road, Great Harwood, was not married but leaves his mum, two sisters, a brother and their families, as well as many friends around the country.