The 56-year-old pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene in Victoria Road West, Hebburn, after being struck by a car, which failed to stop at the scene.
The incident happened at 12.20am today, next to Burn Terrace and close to Mill Crescent.
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The road was closed between Wardley Lane and the fire station to allow the incident to be dealt with and so inquiries could be carried out. It has since reopened.
A 39-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and remains in police custody.
Among those who saw the aftermath of the tragedy was Robbie Forster, 48, who lives in the flats at Burn Terrace.
The driver said: “I heard a sound, I didn’t see it, I just heard it, and I looked out and saw a car exit the path way and back on to the road and then it went east.
“(The man) was left lying on the grass.”
He added: “It was berserk, there was about 20 police and vans. The paramedics came and they tried to resuscitate him.
“His friend was just in shock. I think they gave him a lift or something.
“I think they must have been on their way home from a night out.
“The police were still there when I went to bed at 4.45am.
“They had all the CSIs and stuff out, they blocked the road off and nobody could get along, so all the people coming back from being out had to be escorted along the other side and under the tape by the police.”
Chalk marks, police tape and medical gloves were the only signs of the incident at the scene today.
Police are keen to speak to any witnesses.
CCTV has identified pedestrians on Station Road, in Hebburn at around 12.25am and officers are keen for these people to come forward.
Officers also want to speak to anyone who saw a silver Mercedes with extensive damage driving towards or away from Hebburn Riverside Park between 12.15am and 12.30am.
Any witnesses are asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101 quoting reference 31 090416. Any witnesses to the collision are asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101 quoting reference 31 090416.