ELO's Mike Edwards killed by hay bale in freak crash

Michael Edwards Mr Edwards was with ELO from 1972 to 1975

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An early member of 1970s British rock group ELO was killed in a "freak" accident when his van was crushed by a bale of hay, police said.

Cellist Mike Edwards, 62, died instantly in the accident on the A381 in Halwell, Devon, on Friday.

Police believe the 600kg bale fell from a tractor on nearby farmland before rolling on to the road.

Mr Edwards was identified using photos and YouTube footage. He was with the Birmingham band from 1972 to 1975.

The musician, who lived in Totnes, was a founder member of the classical Devon Baroque orchestra.

Friend 'devastated'

"He was simply the nicest guy and a brilliant musician," Angus Gordon, the chairman of Devon Baroque, told BBC News.

"He was capable of turning his hand to any type of music at all.

"He taught the cello and his incredible patience and encouragement - even with the slowest of students - made him a very good teacher.

"I'm devastated. He was a really likeable person and such good fun that I keep thinking this has been a horrible mistake."

Mr Edwards was due to play with the medieval folk band Daughters of Elvin in Totnes on Saturday evening.

Officers believe he swerved into another vehicle as his van was struck by the bale at about 1230 BST.

The other driver was not hurt.

Initially police had difficulty in tracking down Mr Edwards' relatives but a spokesman said officers had now traced his brother David in Yorkshire.

'Crowd favourite'

The Health and Safety Executive is investigating what has been described as a "farm accident".

Insp Andy Hamilton, of Devon and Cornwall police, said: "Although it would appear to be a freak incident, we've got to thoroughly investigate the circumstances before we can draw any conclusions."

ELO was formed as the Electric Light Orchestra in 1971 by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood.

ELO performing on Top of the Pops in January 1973 The band had a string of hit singles and albums in the UK and US

The band, who played rock and pop music with classical overtones, sold more than 50 million records worldwide and had numerous hit singles and albums in the UK and the US.

Mr Edwards, who trained at the Royal Academy of Music, was in the line-up for ELO's first live concert.

A tribute on the Face the Music website said: "Mike quickly became a crowd favourite with his exploding cello and rather unique solo party piece that involved playing the cello with a grapefruit."

Talking about his time with ELO in a rare interview last year, Mr Edwards said the stunts were simply a way to make the band "more entertaining".

Mr Edwards' friend and Devon Baroque colleague Jasper Solomon, who also lives in Totnes, said: "Mike's talent was his musicality.

"He could range over all genres from classical to jazz, modern to medieval renaissance.

"He lived for his music and it showed."

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