THE driver killed when a passenger train hit his car on a railway line near Malton has been described as a 'smashing bloke' who was well-respected by the local community.

Eric Ireland, who was 77 and from Moorsholme, in Scampston, was driving across the Ivy Lea rail crossing in the village , at about 9.15am on Wednesday, May 7, when his car was struck by the 8.48am Scarborough to Liverpool Lime Street service.

Mr Ireland, who leaves a 90-year-old widow, Bessie, was known by many people living in the area.

Local councillor Brian Maud, whose own father, Len, was killed in 2005 on the Low Moor Lane crossing in Rillington, said he had known Mr Ireland for many years.

"He was brought up on Sleights Farm where we now live and was a smashing bloke," he added.

"Eric worked as a lorry driver for many years and everyone round here knew him. Eric was much respected and it has been a great shock to everyone who knew him and a personal shock to me."

Mike Williams, who lives nearby in Low Moor Lane Rillington, said: “This will affect people as everyone knows everyone else round here.

Fellow resident Beverley Goring said: “That level crossing is use lots by walkers who live around here and live on farms.

"It is dreadful to think that this has happened. It’s really sad news.”

Chief Inspector Derek O’Mara, from British Transport Police, said despite the efforts of emergency services, Mr Ireland was pronounced dead at the scene.

He said: “The police investigation into the incident is ongoing. Officers are working hard to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident, including how the vehicle came to be on the tracks at the time, and are working closely with colleagues from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch to determine exactly what led to the collision.”

The crossing is used by local farmers who have to phone the signal box to find out if it is safe to cross. Scampston Parish Council have previously reported concerns about safety at the site, but Railtrack said because the site was so remote and rarely-used they could not undertake improvements.

Mr Ireland's funeral will be held at East Riding Crematorium, Octon on Monday May 19 at 11am. Family flowers only are requested with donations to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.