EUROPE'S largest Army base was in shock last night following the deaths of two serving soldiers in a tragic car crash.

A 23-year-old driver and his 20-year-old female passenger were killed when their car left the road and hit a tree opposite Catterick Golf Club in Catterick Garrison at about 8pm on Saturday evening (February 1).

Police and the Ministry of Defence have not yet named the two young soldiers involved in the fatal accident, but confirmed they were both based locally and currently serving in the army.

No other cars were said to be involved in the crash on Leyburn Road.

News of the tragic accident soon spread around the North Yorkshire garrison town, the largest in Europe, and people within the military community visited the crash scene throughout the day to leave floral tributes at the road side. Other members of the community also left flowers and tributes at the base of the tree.

James Wallace, a bar tender at Catterick Golf Course, said: “It’s just a very big shock, nobody can believe it. It’s a straight stretch of road - it’s not known for being dangerous. It’s just a big shock so close to home.”

Another Catterick Garrison resident, whose home is not far from the wooded stretch of road and who did not wish to be named, said: “My son had gone out last night and when he came back he found the road was closed. When we saw all the police we knew something had happened.

“I’m shocked. I don’t understand it. It’s a straight bit of road and there were no cars around, although there was heavy rain and hailstones; it was a miserable night.

“Nobody can believe it.”

Police say the male driver of the black Seat Leon was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger was taken by ambulance to Darlington Memorial Hospital, but medics were unable to save her and she later died.

The Ministry of Defence said it had informed the family of the accident-victims, but would not be commenting on the deaths of two of its soldiers.

Members of the local community were keen to express their sympathies to the friends and families of the two young military personnel. Chairman of Richmondshire District Council, Councillor Rob Johnson said: “It’s always very sad when an accident happens and there are fatalities. We want to extend our sympathies to their families and their friends; particularly serving personnel.”

Catterick Councillor Tony Pelton said: “The greater tragedy is they face great dangers in their professional life and to die in this manner seems very sad.”

The road remained closed until 1.50am on Sunday while the scene was investigated by the police and the vehicle recovered.

Witnesses to the collision or anyone who possibly recalled seeing the black Seat Leon car prior to the incident, are urged to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 and speak to the Force Control Room.