Emmerdale star Sam Gannon has tragically died at the age of just 31.

The talented actor, who was best known for playing Kev in the long running ITV soap was staying with family in California when he passed away.

Confirming the devastating news, Sam’s sister Amy Kelly said: "Sam was a whirlwind, a unique character to say the least."

"He genuinely cared for others and was a very sensitive soul. It is clear from the tributes we have received that he touched the hearts of so many.’’

Close pal Lewis Matthews added: "Sam was a ‘real life Duracell bunny' with a seemingly endless supply of energy and love."

"He delighted audiences with his charm, wit and his wonderful musical abilities."

While the actor’s death is currently being investigated by police, it is not being treated as suspicious at this time.

During his time on Emmerdale, Sam played horse-drawn carriage coachman Kev, where he worked alongside fan favourite Emma Atkins who plays Charity Dingle.

As a result of his unexpected death, his family have launched a JustGiving page to raise enough money to bring the actor back home to the UK.

"Due to the recent and sudden passing of Sam. All donations will be put towards the repatriation of his body from the US and his funeral," they wrote.

"We are putting the target as £17,000 as we do not yet know the actual cost."

Paying tribute to the young actor, the page continued: " Sam was a true performer, and any extra money raised will be donated to a UK charity supporting youth theatre, a cause close to Sam’s heart."

At the time of publishing, £6,200 of the £17,000 has been raised.

Amy also plans on setting up a foundation in her brother's name for those who "need extra support".

As donations flooded in to help the family, one devastated friend wrote: "The very best of men, always with a smile and a joke. Ready to help anyone, always kind and entertaining."

"I worked with Sam during our time at The York Dungeons and Duracell Bunny is the perfect way to describe him. Sending so much love to his family x," another added.

Another commenter also paid their respects as they wrote: "Sending love and sympathy to Sam’s family and friends. I never had the pleasure of meeting Sam, but my younger sister Wendy Patterson did."

"I directed Sam in a couple of projects. He was such a talented young actor and brought great joy to friends, and audiences alike. This a truly, sad loss. My thoughts are with his family. So sorry," someone added.

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