The family of a good Samaritan electrocuted in front of his son yesterday after he tried to clear a tree brought down power cables was hailed a hero.

Farmer Roger Hayward, 71, a retired tree surgeon, who had worked with trees all his life, died "within seconds" as he tried to remove branches blocking his road.

His horrified son Andrew, 37, watched helplessly as Roger caught the cables, fell to the ground, and took a few breaths before turning purple.

Tragically, neither family or paramedics at the scene could touch Roger for around an hour because of the electric current still running through his body.

It is thought he had attempted to move the tree in Stanley, near Calne, after mistakenly believing the power had been turned off.

Roger's wife Celia, 69, and daughter Linda, 41, described her husband as "the sort of man who would help anyone".

Distraught Celia said: "There was no power in the house so they couldn't watch telly so they thought they would pop down to Lidl.

"The tree was in the road. They were just going off shopping and the tree must have been down.

"He had a chainsaw in the back as he was always cutting down trees. He thought he'd cut it down so people could get along the road."

Linda added her family would not have been able to stop him from moving the tree to help others. She added: "If we'd have chained him to the chair, he would have gone with the chair.

"Everybody else would have found another route but not dad.

"We used to call him the 'A Team' because he would help anybody.

"He was a good old sort - you don't meet many people like that nowadays. He was one in a million, one in a zillion."

Police were called to the fallen tree at around 3.10pm on Wednesday, but, just 10 minutes later, they received a 999 call reporting a man had been injured.

Despite paramedics best efforts Roger was pronounced dead at the scene.

Roger, a well-known market gardener, had lived on the road where the accident took place for more than 20 years, and before that had lived in Chippenham.

Linda continued: "He was always outside. As long as he was outside he was happy and he was always working- I've never known anyone to work like him.

"He loved to come in from the field and have a cup of tea and a chit chat. He was always looking after his chickens - he called them his girls.

"He knew all the farmers - when everyone hears they are just knocked for six.

"He might have been my dad but he didn't have to be. He didn't have to even be your friend - he would be a friend to anyone.

"It was everybody's wish that he would go quick - he would have wanted to die out in the field or on his tractor.

"But 71 is just too early."

In a statement, the Hayward family said: "We would like to express our deep gratitude for the kind messages of condolence, love and support from friends and neighbours in Chippenham, Calne and beyond.

"We are all shocked and deeply saddened with the passing of our dearest dad, husband, granddad and friend to many, Roger Hayward.

To those that knew him, Roger was a larger than life character, a friend and helping hand to many and any that needed help. There are many stories of this covering not just Wiltshire but on occasions when on holiday too.

"Roger was one of life’s workers on his farm, never missed a day off in his life doing what he enjoyed to the end helping others.

"We would be grateful to remain private in our grief whilst we come to terms with our loss."

Friends also paid tribute to Mr Hayward, who believed the power to the road was off, after his house plunged into darkness.

A friend, who didn't want to be named, said Mr Hayward used to work for Wessex Water where he did "a lot of tree work".

"He was a sort of tree surgeon," he said. "He works the land.

"He came back from Lidl and a tree was down. The power was off in his house. When the power's off you you think the cables are off too."

Neighbour Dr Bryan Hughes, 86, said: "He was my next door neighbour. He was quite a character.

"We thought it was just a tree that had fallen along the road which happens regularly.

"He was a jobbing gardener - he still did a bit of that. They have a market garden. We didn't find out until tea time - it was a shock."

Another neighbour, who also did not want to be named, added: "He was a very nice helpful man. A very kind man.

"There's nothing bad anyone could say about him.

"That's why he would have been trying to get the way out of the way so that people could get past."

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: "Just after 3.10pm, officers were called to reports of a fallen tree which also brought down power cables in Bremhill, Calne.

"At around 3.20pm, while police response officers were en route we were contacted via 999 again with reports of a man injured at the scene.

"The ambulance service also attended but sadly the man, who was local to the area, was pronounced dead on arrival.

"Early indication is that the man was attempting to clear the tree and has possibly been electrocuted as a result."

Scottish and Southern Electric were called to the site to make the situation safe.

In a statement Southern Electric said: "On Wednesday we were, unfortunately, made aware of a fatality in the Melksham area.

"We were called to site and made the situation safe and although we cannot speculate on the cause, we can say the police were on site with our team. "We will continue to assist the police with their enquiries."