NEIGHBOURS paid tribute to a 74-year-old grandmother who died in a New Year's Day car smash.

Sheila Parker, of Castlefields, Istead Rise, died when her Vauxhall Belmont veered across Wrotham Road, Gravesend, and collided with a Land Rover carrying a family-of-four.

The busy country road was closed for three hours while firefighters cut the pensioner free from the wreckage.

An inquest into Mrs Parker's death has been opened and adjourned and police are appealing for witnesses to the crash, described as "carnage" by officers at the scene, to come forward.

Neighbours said her death was "tragic" and believe the angina sufferer had a heart attack at the wheel.

Anne Ireland, 55, who lived next door to Mrs Parker for nine years, said: "Sheila would have done anything for anybody.

"She was a volunteer at the Lions Hospice in Northfleet and was a regular feature at Istead Rise Community Centre.

"We were devastated when we found out she had died because she was like a grandmother to my daughter.

"As soon as we found out, we took down our Christmas tree because we couldn't face seeing it anymore."

She added: "She was such a lovely, bubbly person and we will all miss her very much."

Another close neighbour described Mrs Parker as "somebody who loved life".

He said: "She was always very cheerful and active even though she had angina. She enjoyed gardening, reading and going on holiday.

"We were so sad when we found out the news."

PC Malcolm Bell, who is leading an investigation into the crash, is appealing for anyone who saw it to come forward.

He said: "We particularly want to hear from the driver in front of the Land Rover who narrowly missed the collision."

A 13-year-old girl in the Land Rover was taken to Maidstone Hospital with a broken leg. She is expected to stay in hospital for up to for six weeks.

The other three members of the family, which comes from the West Midlands, were treated for cuts and bruises and discharged.

Anyone with information about the crash which took place next to Meopham Police Station at 3pm, should call PC Bell on 01474 331055.