Man Dies In Tree Fall

A van driver who was killed when a huge beech tree crushed his parked van in high winds was named by police today.

Married father-of-three Christopher Hayes, 51, was pronounced dead at the scene after the tree toppled in Sandhurst Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, at 12.25pm yesterday.

According to one local, a passenger in the van escaped injury after he bent down to pick up a lighter at the point when the tree fell.

The incident happened as winds of more than 100mph buffeted the country, bringing chaos to travellers returning to work after the festive break.

Kent Police said Mr Hayes, of Kings Road, Tonbridge, was a well-known businessman who owned a local building firm in the area for more than 30 years.

Mr Hayes, who had been working with his colleague in the area at the time the tree fell, leaves a wife to whom he was married for 26 years, a son and two daughters.

A police spokesman said the family were ``coming to terms with the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved partner and father'' and asked for privacy.

A post-mortem examination will be held tomorrow as officers from Kent Police's serious collision investigation unit examine the background to the incident.

The road was closed until 8pm yesterday to allow emergency teams to clear the scene and deal with a second tree amid fears that it might topple.

Some residents on the road had to be evacuated due to the danger posed by the other tree but were allowed back into their homes once it was deemed safe.