A 48-YEAR-OLD taxi driver from Swindon died at the scene of a crash on the A350 at Beanacre near Melksham on Tuesday afternoon. Police later named him as Craig Preston.

His passenger, a 79-year-old woman from the Chippenham area, was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol by air ambulance with life-threatening injuries, where she remains critical but stable.

Wiltshire Police are appealing for witnesses following the fatal collision between the private hire taxi service vehicle and a furniture delivery lorry, which happened on the stretch of road close to Beechfield House just after 1pm.

Police said this week the Ford Mondeo had apparently crossed the central white lines on Beanacre Road and collided with a heavy goods vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.

The taxi driver was pronounced dead at the scene and his passenger had to be cut free from the wreckage by firefighters. She was then airlifted to Southmead Hospital, where her injuries were at first said to be life-threatening.

Mr Preston’s family later released this tribute, saying: “Craig was a caring son and a good friend to many people.

“He loved his football and was a very keen Leeds’ fan as well as being fantastic at his job; his popularity was reflected by what his customers thought of him - he was well-liked by all. No doubt, that was also partly down to his great sense of humour.

“He leaves behind his wider family, including step-daughter Katrina - they will all miss him dearly, along with his dear mum Yvonne.”

The road was closed in both directions for several hours as three Dorset and Wiltshire fire crews from Corsham and Chippenham and a heavy rescue unit from Trowbridge freed Mr Preston and his passenger, who were trapped in the Ford Mondeo.

It is understood Mr Preston’s private hire taxi was travelling towards Chippenham. The lorry belonged to Ash Logistics Ltd, a Watford-based furniture delivery firm.

The South Western Ambulance Service received a call at 1.14pm that three people were involved in the collision and sent two ambulances, three rapid response vehicles and the air ambulance.

Police urged motorists to avoid the A350 following the accident, which caused long traffic delays for hundreds of drivers travelling in both directions.

The A350 was closed between Avon Road in Melksham and Westlands Lane in Beanacre for more than six hours due to the accident, with diversions being established.

Queuing traffic and congestion extended as far as Mons Lane at Notton and on the A350 to the A365 Western Way and the B3104 Semington Road between Trowbridge and Devizes.

The road was finally re-opened just after 7pm.