A driver died when his 4×4 was swept away by a flash flood as he tried to cross a ford during torrential storms.
The man’s Mitsubishi Shogun was swamped by the torrent and dragged downstream in the village of Chew Stoke, Somerset, on Thursday night.
Police and fire crews rushed to the scene and pulled the man out through the sunroof but he had suffered a cardiac arrest and was unconscious.
Paramedics attempted to resuscitate him at the scene but he died during the journey to the Bristol Royal Infirmary.
It was the second vehicle to be swept away by the torrent within 24 hours after the driver of a 4×4 had to be rescued by residents the previous day.
Chew Stoke residents said they believed the man was simply visiting the village as locals are “well aware” of the risks.
Grandmother Cynthia Troup, who has lived in the village for 38 years with her husband Andrew, said: “As locals we treat the ford with respect, we would never drive through it when the river levels are like this.
“We don’t go over it when it is too deep and often on a very wet day it will be. I’m pretty sure it was not somebody local because they would have known.
“I’ve head it was a relative of somebody local in the village.
“The whole community is in a bit of shock. It is a real trauma I think and it will take a long time to get over.”
David Smith, 76, who lives next to the ford in Pilgrims Way, had to rescue another 4×4 from the water just hours before the tragedy.
He said: “A Land Rover came past and I flagged him down and suggested he ought not to try and cross the ford but he did and got swept away in the middle of it.
“Fortunately his vehicle was caught by one of the bollards on the road and he was able to climb out of the window onto the roof.
“So we tied a rope around him from my garden just in case he was swept away and sort of secured him until the fire brigade arrived 20 minutes later.
“Fortunately he was rescued, it was a crazy, crazy thing to do.”
The victim’s car was today still abandoned under a small wooden pedestrian bridge, with a window on the driver’s side open.
A marked police presence had cordoned off the area in the middle of a group of houses and fire and rescue personnel were also present.
Mr Smith added: “This is the first time we have experienced this sort of flooding. My garage has been flooded twice in 48 hours and we are 4ft above the road line.
“We are flooded regularly – you would expect that because there is a ford here – but nothing like the last few months, this year has been particularly wet.
“Because the river has three entry points into the road and they sort of come together and cause quite substantial flooding.
“The speed of the water was quite horrendous, it really was, I’d seen nothing like it.”
Petra Lowe, 43, said another local resident had spotted the car wedged under the bridge and called the emergency services at around 9pm.
She said: “Somebody in the village was out with their son and realised that the car was stuck but I don’t think at the time they knew there was anybody in the car.
“Then they realised there was and they alerted emergency services. We live just up around the corner and we could hear an awful lot of commotion.
“He was alive when he came out of the car I think but by the time he got to hospital he had died.
“Due to the bridge they couldn’t get out of the car, so however the car was fixed they couldn’t actually get out. It is absolutely horrendous.”
She added that she thought that the woman who found the vehicle knew the victim.
“I don’t know if he was local but I have the feeling, by the way everybody is, that whoever found him knew who it was.
“The thing is we have seen someone swim from a car last year and it’s frightening people still try and drive through.
“Very quickly you are taken away and if you don’t realise what the current is like it is very dangerous.”
A spokesman for Great Western Ambulance Service said: “The man was released from the car. At that point he was in cardiac arrest, unconscious and not breathing.
“A decision was made to attempt resuscitation. Advanced resuscitation techniques began and continued en route to hospital.
“During the journey it was recognised that life was extinct.”
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said formal identification of the victim had not yet taken place.
He added: “We are still down at the scene sorting out the recovery of the vehicle. We do not have any details to release about the victim at this time.
“We are trying to work out the circumstances surrounding the death and would ask anyone with information to contact us on 101.”
Stormy weather caused havoc across Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol, Devon and Cornwall, with roads blocked by floods, rubble, fallen trees and power cables.
Rail passengers, who have been hit with delays across the country, have been warned to expect further transport chaos.
In Bath,a landslip blocked Upper Camden Place, while Pulteney Weir disappeared under the huge volume of water.
Cheddar Gorge was also closed, as drivers were getting punctures in their tyres caused by stones washed into the road.
Kelvin Packer, highways manager at Bath and North East Somerset council, said it had been “a battle” to keep roads open across the region.
Western Power Distribution confirmed 2,500 customers in the South West and 500 in Wales were without power due to high winds bringing down power lines.
Around 90 flood warnings were issued for rivers as well as more than 200 less serious flood alerts.
The Met Office said some areas saw up to 60mm of rain on Thursday, causing river levels to rise and flooding.
Forecasters are predicting more heavy rain and gales for the weekend and Monday in the Bristol area.
Strong winds – which reached more than 40mph on Thursday – are expected to return on Saturday.
Emergency services initially struggled to discover the 4×4 car the elderly victim was driving – as it was completely submerged.
Duncan Massey, from Avon and Somerset Search and Rescue, said: “It was quite difficult trying to find and locate him.
“We knew where the car was in the water but we couldn’t access it. It was just dark, flooded and the car had been swept away.
“We were just desperately trying to find where this person was.
“The fire and rescue service were here with boats and waders and swimming people just trying to find where he was and rescue him as best we could.
“The water now would be up to my waist, access was terrible and the water was like a raging torrent.
“It was nearly impossible to get into the water and it was very, very deep and very swift flowing and dark.
“It was gruelling, absolutely gruelling. It was cold, wet and the middle of November. Not ideal conditions for a rescue.
“It is always horrible and you feel for the family, the relatives and the people who do they best they can to try and rescue.”