Developing

Weather: Big Freeze Leads To Nine Deaths

The icy weather has led to the deaths of nine people in the last week.

Among those who died was 54-year-old James Hurst,  who fell over after he had been dropped off by a taxi following an evening at a local pub on Saturday.

Neighbours saw his body lying near a doorstep at about 8am the next day. Police confirmed Mr Hurst had suffered a head injury, which they were treating as an accident.

Tributes were also paid to postman John Bircham, who collapsed as he approached the end of his deliveries in and around the Somerset town of Dulverton on Saturday.

It is understood that the 57-year-old father-of-two had been towed out of a snowdrift by a farmer before collapsing soon afterwards.

A woman found dead in a garden early on Sunday is believed to have collapsed in the snow after a night out.

Bernadette Lee, 25, was discovered in the front garden of the house next to her sister's by a man walking his dog in Church Meadows in Deal, Kent, at 7.30am.

Kent Police is investigating the cause of death, but there have been reports that she had no visible injuries and was found without a coat.

A man was also killed in another weather-related incident when the car he was driving left the road and crashed into a tree on the A12 in Essex on Sunday night.

Elsewhere, 16-year-old Liam Stafford remains critically ill in hospital after being injured while sledging in Flatts Lane Country Park in Normanby, Middlesbrough, on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, more snow has fallen across some parts of the UK causing disruption to schools and travel networks and stranding motorists in their cars.

Up to 9cm fell overnight across parts of south and southwest England, the West Midlands and parts of Wales, but it has been generally light.

In Somerset, 30 people were forced to abandon their cars and spend the night in a shelter after heavy snow and fallen trees blocked the A39 between Bridgwater and Wilton.

Police rescued the stranded drivers in the early hours of the morning and took them to a local village hall where they spent the night.

A spokesperson for Avon & Somerset Police said: "At 1am we became aware that about 30 people were stuck on a road that was impassable, primarily because of snow but also because of fallen trees.

"Officers from different districts in 4x4s were first on the scene to help and we asked the local fire station to open up and serve hot drinks and spoke with the council and identified a key-holder for a nearby village hall.

"It was a group effort by the emergency services and a bit of community spirit."

Another driver had a lucky escape after his car caught fire on the B3212 at Dartmoor in Devon.

Matthew Shipton, 21, was driving home from work when his engine suddenly burst into flames. Firefighters were called and put out the blaze.

Emergency services were also called to Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield where a boy, believed to be 15, had apparently tried to walk on the frozen surface of a large pool of water.

After falling through he managed to escape the icy water and reach an island about 30 metres (100ft) from the shore, but was suffering from the effects of the cold.

Fire crews from Sutton Coldfield, Erdington and Perry Barr were sent to the park, along with the police and ambulance service.

They were able to rescue the boy using an inflatable raft, and he was taken to hospital.

A spokesman for West Midlands Fire Service said: "This incident is a very timely reminder about the need for us all to stay safe and sensible in these very cold weather conditions.

"As sturdy as it might look, there is no way of knowing the thickness of ice on pools, lakes and other waterways. Please stay off it, and make sure that any children you know are aware of the dangers.

"People who put themselves at risk by venturing on to ice also endanger the lives of anyone who might have to rescue them.

"We're also urging dog owners to keep them on leads, so that they and their pets don't get into difficulties."

Temperatures are expected to become milder at the weekend, although melting snow coupled with rainfall could lead to flooding.

Sky weather producer Joanna Robinson said: "The next few days will be quieter in terms of snowfall, but ice and freezing fog will remain hazards.

"The next spell of heavy, possibly disruptive, snow will be on Friday in the north and east, but it will be fairly short lived as it will turn milder over the weekend. Flooding will then be an issue.

"In terms of snowfall today, there will be patchy outbreaks across the West Midlands, Wales and south-west England, but it will be much lighter than last night.

"Parts of Wales and southwest England could see another 2-5cm, locally 10cm over the hills.

"Generally the snowfall should ease today, but there may be some very local issues of disruption across the South West.

"Tonight and Thursday night look very cold, with temperatures dropping below minus 10 Celsius in some rural spots."