A MANHUNT has been launched after a Blackburn grandfather and former council boss was killed in a horror hit-and-run accident in France.

Keen cyclist Steve Weaver, who lived in Revidge, was knocked off his bike near his holiday home in Provence and the driver ran off.

French police are now searching for the killer motorist whose car is believed to have been coming from the hamlet of Veaux towards Malaucène when the accident happened on a bend.

Borough chief executive Harry Catherall, Blackburn MP Jack Straw and former council leader Sir Bill Taylor led the tributes to a ‘great friend’ and one of the architects of the creation of Blackburn with Darwen Council.

Mr Weaver, 64, who was chief executive of Blackpool Council from 2002 to 2011 after 27 years working in Blackburn town hall, left three children and three grandchildren.

He is seen as one of the key figures in the success of Blackburn with Darwen’s breakaway from Lancashire County Council in 1998 to become an all-purpose authority.

Commander Sébastien Roussignol, from the police in Malaucène, said the crash happened around 1.30pm on Wednesday.

He said: “The cyclist had gone out for a ride in the countryside.

“The driver of the car coming in the opposite direction lost control and hit the cyclist.

“He was hit by the car and left for dead.

“The driver escaped on foot. They have not yet been identified and we are searching for them.

“The helicopter was put up to help Mr Weaver and take him to hospital, but he was already in respiratory arrest.”

A manhunt is under way to find the driver of the small Ford.

He leaves daughter Ruth, who has two children, son Christopher, who is a Labour councillor in Cardiff, and son Ben, an opera singer in Nuremberg, Germany.

Mr Weaver remained on good terms with his ex-wife Ann, who is a Blackburn Rovers season ticket holder.

Sir Bill said: “He was a great friend who loved France and was an incredibly keen cyclist.

“His daughter Ruth, who lives in Burnley, had a baby about six months ago. He was delighted.

“He was a hard but fair local government officer who was crucial in the creation of Blackburn with Darwen as an all-purpose authority.

“This is a tragedy.”

Mr Straw said: “I have known Steve as a great friend for 35 years and Ann still sits next to me at Rovers. This is a tragedy.

“He was an amusing man with a good sense of humour and a very capable local government officer who was very important in the creation of Blackburn with Darwen.”

Mr Catherall said: “We are extremely sorry to give the news that Steve Weaver, ex-chief executive of Blackpool Council and former executive director of Blackburn with Darwen for many years, has been killed in a collision while on a regular bike ride in France.

“Steve served the council with distinction for many years and was instrumental in helping Blackburn with Darwen achieve unitary status. He was an extremely well-liked and capable officer.

“Blackburn with Darwen Council, both councillors and officers, would like to extend their deepest sympathy to the family.”

Labour party secretary and Roe Lee councillor Phil Riley said: “This was a hit and run. It’s appalling, awful.

“He was a good friend and keen cyclist. In a few months he was planning a cross-America bike ride.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the death of a British national in France on May 28.

"We stand ready to provide consular assistance to the family at this difficult time."

Mr Weaver, who hails originally from Yorkshire, came to live in Blackburn to work at the Hothersall Lodge outdoor activity centre in Ribble Valley before training as a town planner as the start of 27 years at the town hall.

In the run up to the 1998 creation of the unitary authority, he became deputy chief executive with responsibility for education, social services, leisure and welfare rights.