A WOMAN who 'touched many hearts' was killed when a large oak tree fell on her car as she drove to visit her daughter in stormy weather, an inquest was told.

Flora Margaret Walsh, aged 69, from Verwood, was driving her Ford B-max alone along Verwood Road, near Alderholt, on the morning of Saturday, November 2, 2019, when the tragedy unfolded.

She'd been on her way to her daughter's Eastleigh home to watch the rugby world cup final which was being broadcast later that day.

Witnesses recalled seeing a large tree falling straight onto Mrs Walsh's car, suddenly almost without warning.

At Dorset Coroner's Court, Bournemouth Town Hall, an inquest hearing was presided over by coroner Brendan Allen.

As part of the hearing, witnesses statements were read by Mr Allen.

Witness Christopher Wild, who was driving in the opposite direction to Mrs Walsh, said that conditions that morning had been windy and it had been raining hard overnight.

"I remember seeing a large tree on the left side of the road begin to move," he said in his statement. "The tree was moving to the right as I looked at it.

"The tree did not sway, it just fell to the right – it appeared to move in slow motion.

"I realised it was falling and began to brake. I then realised a small Ford car was approaching from the opposite direction.

"I did not see any reaction from the other car, it did not appear to brake.

"I did not hear any noises of the car braking or skidding.

"I then saw the tree fall directly onto the Ford car.

"It made a loud noise."

He got out and ran to the car but the tree had landed on the driver's compartment.

"There was only one person inside the car and I did not think they could have survived the incident," he said.

Other motorists stopped and the emergency services were called.

Mrs Walsh was pronounced dead at the scene.

Witness Gemma Pollock was driving alone behind Mrs Holmes' car, approximately two car lengths.

In her statement, which was also read to court by Mr Allen, she said: "Initially I thought the tree was moving in the wind.

"However, it very quickly became apparent that the tree was falling.

"I watched as the tree fell on top of the car that was directly in front of me."

She immediately slammed on her brakes and managed to stop in time.

"I got out of my car and I could hear a horn sounding from the car in front," she said. "As I got closer to I realised the tree had fallen directly on top of the vehicle."

Earlier in the hearing, statements from Mrs Walsh's daughter, Clare Holmes – who attended court with other relatives – were read and introduced into evidence

She explained how her mother, who had been employed as a clerical worker most of her adult life, had retired with her husband to Verwood.

Mrs Holmes, who also said her mother was a practising catholic and active in the community, said: "We spent a lot of time together in her last weeks, even then she was thinking of others.

"Her priest said at her funeral that we may never know the full extent to which she helped and supported people, but knowing her it is clear she touched many hearts.

"She was a wonderful woman who made a big impact on everyone she met."

The hearing, which is expected to take two days, also heard how the tree that fell had been inspected by a qualified tree surgeon in 2018 and deemed healthy.

On the night before the fatal accident, Dorset Police had received reports of 50 trees falling in high winds.

The Met Office had issued a weather warning, with gusts of up to 70mph forecast overnight in some parts of the county at the time.

Dorset Council's highways team was notified of 38 trees falling down and 82 other emergency call outs in the 48-hour period during which the accident took place.

The inquest was also told that two trees had fallen close to the same section of road in August, 2019.

On one of these occasions, two people in a van narrowly escaped injury.

The inquest continues.