AN INQUEST has been opened into the death of a much-loved community figure.

Nigel Baynes (63), owner of Baynes Travel, died at the company's yard in Allendale on March 10 this year.

At the opening of an inquest at County Hall in Morpeth yesterday (Wednesday, June 1), Northumberland coroner Andrew Hetherington said Mr Baynes had advised that he was fixing a vehicle.

At around 8.30pm, he was found located "under the front of a coach and trapped", the inquest heard.

Mr Hetherington adjourned the inquest to a provisional date in September.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive is ongoing.

Following his death, tributes poured in for Mr Baynes who was nicknamed "Mr Allendale".

Mr Baynes was a former president of the Allendale Lions club and hugely involved in the village's annual bonfire, Christmas lights, and New Year's Eve Tar Bar'l celebrations.

He also founded Allendale Fair in 1983 and was Allendale's beloved long-standing pantomime dame.

Margaret Stonehouse, a friend and colleague for more than 20 years of Mr Baynes, said after his death: "Nigel has been deeply embedded in so many aspects of community life for 40 years that his sudden passing leaves the most gaping hole imaginable.

"He was truly a larger-than-life character with boundless energy and empathy for others, a hideously wicked sense of humour, and the most astounding ability to make people laugh.

"He ran his taxi and coach business with endless energy, would help anybody out of a scrape, and mercy trips were a speciality."

She added: "'Mr Allendale' is a one-off matchless legend."

Mr Baynes was also a retained firefighter.

In a statement issued at the time, his colleagues at Allendale Community Fire Station said: "On that night, we lost not just a cherished, popular and much-loved colleague, but a friend, a brother and a father figure to Allendale, the local area, our crew and the wider embraces of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service. We are heartbroken to say the least."

Flags at fire stations across Northumberland flew at half-mast over the weekend following his death as a sign of respect and mourning.