A driver died when his car was hit by a stolen vehicle which flipped over a motorway central reservation as traffic officers tried to stop it, police said today.
Officers in cars and a force helicopter were pursuing a Mitsubishi along the A1(M) near Durham at 5.40am when it crossed the carriageway and hit a Peugeot heading south.
Durham police said a full investigation had been launched and it would refer the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The Mitsubishi flew into the air in an attempt to avoid being stopped by traffic officers, a spokesman said.
He said: "The incident happened at around 5.40am on the southbound carriageway near the Bowburn interchange and followed a pursuit by police.
"The motorway is currently closed in both directions and will be for some time.
"The identity of the motorist is not being released until relatives are informed.
"Officers had earlier been following a Mitsubishi stolen from the Chester-le-Street area which had been spotted on the Aycliffe industrial estate.
"It travelled on to the A167 before turning on to the A1(M) and heading north.
"The Mitsubishi was being followed by trained officers and the police helicopter was also being used to monitor the pursuit.
"Near the Bowburn interchange, a controlled attempt was being made to bring the car to a halt when, in an attempt to avoid this, the Mitsubishi has hit the central reservation and flipped on to the southbound carriageway, hitting an oncoming Peugeot.
"The driver of the Peugeot suffered severe injuries and died at the scene.
"The male driver of the Mitsubishi was also injured and is currently undergoing surgery at the University Hospital of north Durham.
"Police officers involved in trying to stop the Mitsubishi were left badly shocked."
Some witnesses have already contacted police but they remain keen to hear from anyone with information.