World Bulletin/News Desk
One of Britain's highest-profile and most colourful union leaders, Bob Crow, died suddenly early on Tuesday, just weeks after leading a series of strikes that crippled London's underground rail network.
The Rail Maritime and Transport workers' union (RMT) said Crow, 52, died in the early hours of Tuesday morning. A spokesman declined to comment on media reports that he had suffered a heart attack and had died in hospital.
Crow was loathed by millions of Londoners after orchestrating a 48-hour tube strike that caused travel chaos earlier this year but loved by members of the RMT for whose rights he fought for more than a decade.
"It is with the deepest regret that RMT has to confirm that our general secretary Bob Crow sadly passed away in the early hours of this morning," the union said in a statement.
No further details were immediately available.
Crow, an imposing, stocky man with a penchant for wearing duffel coats and flat caps, was a larger-than-life character who had no qualms about confronting politicians.
Despite earning an annual salary of 145,000 pounds ($241,200), he continued to live in a council house in London.
He came under fire in the British media in February when he was photographed on holiday on a beach in Brazil just days before the start of the latest tube strike.
"What do you want me to do," he replied with typical chutzpah. "Sit under a tree and read Karl Marx every day?"
Tributes poured in for Crow, who had led the 80,000-member RMT since 2002.
"I'm shocked. Bob Crow was a fighter and a man of character. Whatever our political differences - and there were many - this is tragic news," Johnson said in statement.
"He shared my goal to make transport in London an even greater success. It's a sad day."
"Bob was an outstanding trade unionist, who tirelessly fought for his members, his industry and the wider trade union movement," she said in a statement.