Paul Mullen died in the crash on the A1 (Image: Durham Constabulary)

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Tributes have been paid to a father-of-three who died in a crash that killed three people.

The horror smash, which involved four cars and two lorries, took place on the A1 in County Durham at around 6.20pm on Thursday.

It happened on the northbound stretch of the carriageway close to the village of Bowburn.

Durham Police today said Paul Mullen, 51, of Washington, near Newcastle, was driving a Toyota Hilux when he died in the crash.

He leaves behind his partner and three children, the force said.

His family said in a statement released by police: "Our hearts are broken. Life will never be the same again.

Three people died in the collision in County Durham

"He will be sadly missed by all who knew him."

A man and a woman who were in a Vauxhall Crossland also died at the scene of the smash.

One of the lorries caught fire as a result of the pile-up and several other people were injured.

The driver of one of the lorries, a 41-year-old man, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and has been released on bail, police said.

A truck caught fire in the horror smash

Pictures taken at the scene show the devastating aftermath of the crash with black smoke pouring off a burning lorry on the motorway.

On the day of the crash a spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: "Emergency services are currently on the scene of a serious collision on the A1(M).

"The incident happened at 6.20pm today on the northbound carriageway at Bowburn.

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"It involved several vehicles, including two lorries, one of which caught fire as a result of the collision.

"Officers would like to speak to anyone who has any dashcam footage of the incident.

"Please contact Durham Constabulary on 101, quoting incident number 322 of July 15."

Those who may have material relevant to the investigation into the crash, such as dashcam footage and photographs, can upload it via a portal set up by Durham Police.

To submit material, people can click here.