A DRIVER has died after a tree fell on a minibus in County Durham

The tree hit the passing vehicle on the A688 between Staindrop and Barnard Castle, near Dunhouse Quarry, just after 3pm today.

Police said that the vehicle was from the Butterwick Hospice in Bishop Auckland.

A spokeswoman for Durham Police said that a passenger in the minibus was hurt and was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital. Their injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

Police said that the driver, whose identity has not yet been released, was declared dead at the scene.

Inspector Ed Turner said: "After this afternoon's tragic accident we would urge all drivers to take extra care on their journeys during this period of high winds."

The road continues to be closed in both directions between Cleatlam Back Lane and the B6279 Moor Road.

Any witnesses are urged to call police on 0345-60-60-365 and ask for the accident investigation unit.

The tragedy came as 70mph winds continue to batter the region.

Train services have been disrupted, roads closed and buildings damaged by the severe storm.

Weathermen say the winds are continuing to build and warned drivers only to travel if they had to.

The Met Office has recorded a gust of 71mph in Loftus, North Yorkshire. Gales are expected to continue tonight before easing slowly tomorrow.