Veteran American comic actor Don Knotts died of pulmonary and respiratory complications on Friday (24FEB06). He was 81.

Knotts, who won five Emmy awards for his turn as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, California.

His most famous co-star Andy Griffith, wife FRANCIE and children THOMAS and KAREN were at his side when he died, says spokesman Paul Ward.

Knotts was also famed for roles in The Reluctant Astronaut, The Shakiest Gun In The West, and recently provided the voice of MAYOR TURKEY LURKEY in Chicken Little.

The actor's former wife, Loralee Knotts, paid tribute to the late star: "He made a real contribution to the laughter in this world.

"You wouldn't find a kinder more gentle soul. He was a comical genius."