Tributes to popular sportsman Rob Cranston who died at Norwich chemical plant

Briar Chemicals in Norwich where Rob Cranston died in a suspected explosion on Friday, July 26. Pict

Briar Chemicals in Norwich where Rob Cranston died in a suspected explosion on Friday, July 26. Picture: Luke Powell - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a superb and hard-working sportsman who died in a suspected explosion at a chemical plant.

Rob Cranston, 46, played cricket for Eaton and the club led tributes to him, along with Swardeston Cricket Club who he had previously played for.

Mr Cranston died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after suffering serious injuries following an incident at Briar Chemicals on Sweet Briar Road, Norwich.

Police officers were called to the plant at about 3.10pm on Friday, July 27, to reports of an explosion.

A spokesman for Briar Chemicals said: 'There has been a terrible accident on site this afternoon and tragically one of our colleagues was seriously injured and has died in hospital.'

John Chilvers, Eaton Cricket Club captain and close friend of Mr Cranston, said: 'He was a first-rate man who was honest, straight-forward and did everything to the best of his ability. He was a talented sportsman and superb team-mate.'

On the night before the incident, Mr Cranston had been integral to a seniors game between Eaton and Saxlingham cricket clubs, which was won by Eaton.

Peter Thomas, a long term member of Swardeston Cricket Club, described Mr Cranston as 'great friend' who loved all sports.

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The club posted a picture on Twitter of the 46-year-old receiving player of the year in 2012 and wrote: 'It is with huge sadness that we have learnt of the tragic death of our former player Rob Cranston. Rob played for us for four years and won the Swardeston CEYMS player of the year trophy in 2012.'

Mr Cranston, a former Hewett School pupil, grew up in Lakenham, Norwich, and lived off Hall Road in the area.

He was married to Claire and had two sons, in their late teens and early 20s, called Lewis and Owen.

Mr Cranston had played for Eaton Cricket Club for 15 years and his family were fully-involved in the club.

As well as cricket, he played pool for Swardeston, short mat bowls, enjoyed golf and had previously played football up until 10 years ago.

A tribute on Twitter from the Norfolk County Short Mat Bowls Association said: 'Rob will be greatly missed by Norfolk short mat bowlers.'

Mr Cranston was employed by pipework and steelwork firm Pruce Newman at the Briar Chemicals site.

A spokesperson paid tribute to him and said: 'We are devastated that the accident at Briar Chemicals on Friday has claimed the life of our friend and colleague, Rob Cranston. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family and friends.

'Rob was a key member of the Pruce Newman team for over 10 years, always professional and enthusiastic in everything he did.

'He will be sorely missed as a highly skilled craftsman, supervisor, colleague, mentor, inspiration and, above all, friend, to everyone who knew him.

'The police and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are now investigating what happened and we are fully committed to helping them in any way we can, although we believe that access to the site remains restricted while the investigation is ongoing.'

A Briar Chemicals spokesman said: 'One of our colleagues, Rob Cranston, tragically lost his life yesterday (July 27) and the company extends its deepest sympathies to all affected. Rob was a hugely liked and much-valued colleague and friend and everyone at the company is devastated by his loss.

'We are fully co-operating with the police and the HSE and the investigation is ongoing. Manufacturing operations are currently suspended.'

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