TWO men, believed to be in their 20s, have died after a car crashed into a tree early yesterday morning.

Police say an officer on routine patrol spotted a silver Volkswagen Polo with frost on its windows speeding along Bury Road, Radcliffe, at about 3.30am.

The officer had activated his vehicle’s emergency sirens to follow the car, but lost sight of it before the collision outside New-bank Garden Centre.

A taxi driver told police he was overtaken by the car, which was travelling at speed, moments earlier.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) has launched an investigation into the incident.

Nearby residents spoke of their shock following the deaths of the driver and passenger.

Joe Sheridan, aged 49, of Bury Road, said: “I heard a bang.

“I looked out of the window and there were fire engines and about six police cars.

“The forensics have been there all night, with torches.

“The helicopter was over before.

“It’s a shame. I wouldn’t like to be the officer that has to call on their parents, just before Christmas.

“People are always speeding up and down here.”

Yesterday morning, a stretch of Bury Road remained closed and the overturned car was still at the scene as garden centre staff arrived for work.

Tracey Gerrard, a manager at Newbank, said: “The police said it would be a few hours until the road is opened.”

The road was closed until 1.30pm while officers from the Serious Collision Investigation Unit carried out work to establish what caused the car to veer off the road, and an officer from Greater Manchester Police’s Professional Standards Branch also went to the scene.

The officer has been suspended from driving while investigations are carried out, which police say is in line with standard procedure.

Four fire engines attended the scene and around 18 firefighters.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “The car was on its roof. We had to cut the side off and release the two men, but they were dead at the scene.

“We were there for about an hour.”

Superintendent Steve Nibloe, from Greater Manchester Police, said: “Tragically, two men have died in this collision.

“They are yet to be identified or their relatives informed, but we will have specially trained officers with their loved ones to support them as best we can as soon as we know who they are.

“If anyone has any information that may assist us I would urge them to contact us.”