HE was trusted to fly politicians and rock stars and shared the screen with Hollywood A-listers.

But perhaps the part he played in a courageous rescue in Weardale, in October 2004, that will stand as the most enduring tribute to Captain Pete Barnes.

The number of lives he saved during the countless air ambulance missions he flew in the North-East and North Yorkshire is impossible to quantify.

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It may yet come to light that his final moments were spent trying to save yet more lives by steering his stricken helicopter in such a way as to minimise destruction.

The circumstances of the crash will be laid bare in the weeks to come.

But his part in the rescue of an Audi driver trapped in his car in the raging River Wear, at Stanhope Ford, is already well documented.

Capt Barnes hovered his aircraft above the roof of the car, to allow his paramedic colleague Kevin Hodgson to step on the roof and free the driver, who was cold, wet and in shock, but otherwise unhurt.

Recalling the rescue Mr Hodgson said: “A guy was trying to cross the ford when the river was in flood and the car was swept down into the river.

“He got stuck in the car, could not open the door and the windows were stuck because they were electric.

“Pete hovered over the car and I climbed out on to the roof.

“He flew away and I got the guy out and onto the roof, then he brought the aircraft back and we got the guy in and flew away.”

As well as a commendation from the charity, the rescue was nominated for a Pride of Britain award.

:: In 2002, Capt Barnes’ dedication to the air ambulance caused him to miss the star-studded premiere of the James Bond film Die Another Day, in which he played a Cuban helicopter pilot called Lopez.

He said at the time: “As much as I would love to go, I never break a contract for anyone and I’m committed to flying for the air ambulance.”