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Theme parks fans, journalists and industry members have paid tribute to Holiday World owner Will Koch, who died suddenly on Sunday night at the age of 48.

Koch, who was also the park's president, had been in charge at Holiday World for nearly two decades. Under his leadership, the park expanded rapidly and became one of the most respected regional amusement parks in the US. As well as overseeing the addition of a water park (Splashin' Safari), Koch even personally helped to design The Voyage - one of the world's leading wooden rollercoasters. The park attracted over a million visitors in each of the past four years, and added a major new attraction - Wildebeest - last month.

Holiday World issued a statement paying tribute to Koch, which is reproduced below:

We are heartbroken. Our beloved leader, Will Koch, passed away last night. We believe it was due to his Type 1 diabetes. Please say a prayer for the family and for all of us here at the park. He was so much more than a boss, he was a dear, sweet friend. As we know he would have wanted, the park will be open today and we'll all try our best to smile and provide wonderful memories to the families who visit us. And also as Will wanted, the park will remain owned and operated by his family.

Tributes to Koch have also appeared online. A selection can be found below:

Koch's funeral will be on Thursday, June 17 at 10.30 central time at the Santa Claus United Methodist Church. The family has asked for donations to the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in lieu of flowers.

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