SYDNEY, Australia (AP) – Richard Carleton, an award-winning journalist whose career in Australian television spanned 40 years, died on Sunday, minutes after asking a question at a news conference. He was 62.

Carleton, a reporter for the Nine Network’s flagship program “60 Minutes,” suffered a suspected heart attack moments after grilling the manager of a gold mine about its safety record. Two Australian miners have been trapped underground at the Beaconsfield Gold Mine for 13 days and Carleton was one of a phalanx of reporters in town covering the rescue operation.

Prime Minister John Howard said he was “shocked and saddened” by the death, while opposition leader Kim Beazley described Carleton as an “icon of the Australian media, with an enviable reputation for creative and forceful interviews.”

He was a regular and enduring face on Australian television since joining the Australian Broadcasting Corp. as a 22-year-old political correspondent in the capital Canberra. In 1997 he moved to London and worked for two years with the British Broadcasting Corp. before joining Nine Network’s “60 Minutes.”

During his career he traveled extensively, covering the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the rise of Thatcherism in Britain, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the Gulf Wars.

Carleton was taken into custody and deported from East Timor in 1999 after police found he and his crew had entered the territory on tourists’, not journalists’ visas. A year later, during the coup in Fiji, he secured an interview with the deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry who was being held hostage by ethnic Fijian rebels.

“Nothing was ever done by half measures. There are few people in this business who you can say are irreplaceable, Richard is one of them,” said John Westacott, executive producer of “60 Minutes.”

He is survived by thee children from his first marriage and two from his second marriage.

AP-ES-05-07-06 2127EDT