German actor Heinrich Schmieder found dead

Small screen star dies during mountain biking race

COLOGNE, Germany -- Actor Heinrich Schmieder one of Germany's most recognizable small screen stars, died this week. He was 40.

It is the second sudden death of a German star in as many months. In June, the 38-year-old Frank Giering, whose performances in Michael Haneke's original "Funny Games" and Sebastian Schipper's "Gigantics" marked him as one of his generation's leading lights, died of organ failure following a colic attack.

The cause of Schmieder's death is still unclear. His agent, Birgit Vogel, would only confirm that Schmieder had been found dead in a hotel bed in the Italian town of Livigno. The actor, an amateur sports enthusiast, had been taking part in the mountain biking race, Bike Transalp. A teammate found his body.

Schmieder had small supporting roles in feature films including the Oscar-nominated "Downfall" (2004) and Bavarian comedy "Brandner Kaspar" (2008) but it was in TV drama that he made his name.

His gaunt face and cold blue eyes helped land him roles in some of Germany's most successful cop shows, including "Doppelter Einsatz" "Soko Koln" and "Alarm for Cobra 11."

But Schmieder also had a funny side. His one German Television Award nomination came in 2003 for the small-screen romantic comedy "Manner happchenweise." The actor also stayed true to his theatrical roots, regularly performing on stage across Germany.

His last role was a one-episode turn on RTL cop show "Commissioner Lukas," which aired May 1. Schmieder is survived by his wife and two children.