Ben Lawton had an absolute love for cranes throughout his life, and could be seen waving at the cranes’ drivers every single morning. The 35-year-old had been diagnosed with epilepsy and autism earlier on in life, and sadly passed away unexpectedly, with the cause of his death still not discovered after he stopped breathing.
The crane company that was particularly saddened by Lawton’s passing away was ABA Crane Hire, where Lawton would stand by the gates and greet drivers. “When he was little, his bedroom overlooked a crane yard,” his father Steve Lawton said. “He could see the cranes gathering and used to stand at the window looking out the glass.”
“My wife did a business opposite ABA and Ben got to know them that way. Once he was a teenager he would get up at 5:00 a.m. or 6 a.m., go to ABA and stay there all day,” he added. “He knew everything about them. When Ben got to know somebody, it tended to be quite a deep relationship that developed. I think because of his autism, if something was in his head he became very drive towards it.”
Steve said that being able to go to ABA on a daily basis is what kept Ben going, and helped him in a lot of different ways. “He was a lovely young man, he was very happy. He found it difficult in social situations, but if he did get to know someone, he had deep feelings for them. I knew he used to go up to ABA, but I wasn’t away how strong the relationship was. I didn’t know how fond they were of Ben, it blew me away really, it’s incredibly.”
ABA Director Anne Baggott received the news of Ben’s passing from the Lawtons’ neighbor, sending hard feelings throughout the company. “Ben would be there day after day,” she said. “He knew every crane, knew all the drivers, he knew the different engine noises. He even had his bike painted in our green colors.”
The company knew they had to pay tribute somehow. “All of the drivers loved him,” Baggott said. “It is so sad, he was only a young lad. Everyone is really cut up about it, the drivers are devastated.”
ABA decided that they’d honor Ben in a couple of different ways. On the fence where Ben would used to greet the drivers, they placed a memorial plaque. They then were able to give him the guard of honor, using their cranes for the funeral procession. Using an ABA van, they were able to transport Ben’s coffin, and the van was followed by large cranes that made the trip from the ABA depot to the crematorium.
Vicky Harrison led the service, and said that “Ben was a legend and he will be remembered fondly by all at ABA Crane Hire.” Ben’s uncle, David, was moved by what ABA and Harrison did for his nephew. “It’s unbelievable, I have never seen anything like it. Ben would’ve loved this, it would’ve made his life. Ben’s father was also amazed as all of us. What they have done is amazing and it must have cost them a fortune.”
ABA employee Simon Ward said that Ben “was the crane oracle. That’s why all of us want to do something to pay our respects to Ben. He was very special and will be missed by everyone in the local community.”
Steve Lawton said that seeing his son pass away at a young age has been difficult, though the tribute that ABA paid has helped in the time since. “It’s been terrible,” he said. “But I’m okay. You have got to be psychologically strong.” It was Steve’s idea to have the funeral procession using cranes, and ABA was happy to help. The community was incredibly moved after seeing all of the cranes and finding out what they were doing, furthering Ben’s legacy.