A man who touched the lives of many has been remembered with a funeral procession involving three Grove All Terrain Cranes.
Ben Lawton greeted crane driver operators every morning and evening for 20 years as they passed through the gates of ABA Crane Hire until his death in October.
The 35-year-old, who had autism and epilepsy, died after he stopped breathing, but the cause of death is still unknown.
On Wednesday, Mr Lawton’s coffin was carried in one of the company’s service trucks, which was followed by the hearse, the All Terrain cranes and a smaller Kato City Crane from the Walsall-based company, at the request of his father.
Dozens of people attended the crane fanatic’s funeral at Streetly Crematorium in Walsall.
Operators of the crane hire company carried the coffin into the crematorium before the service started.
Metro UK reports, his father, Steve, 65, said: ‘When he was little his bedroom overlooked a crane yard. 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 5am or 6am, go to ABA and stay there all day.
‘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 driven towards it.
‘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 aware how strong the relationship was. I didn’t know how fond they were of Ben, it blew me away really, it’s incredible.
‘My neighbour told them Ben had passed away and they came around here and was crying in my front room.’
Anne Baggott, director of ABA, said: ‘Ben would be there day after day. He knew every crane, knew all the drivers, he knew the different engine noises. He even had his bike painted in our green colors.
‘It was his life. All of the drivers loved him. We always knew he was there. Everyone always stopped to talk to him and buy him an ice cream.
‘Unfortunately he could never come into the yard because of health and safety. It is so sad, he was only a young lad. Everyone is really cut up about it, the drivers are devastated.’
Simon Ward, a mobile crane operator at the company, said: ‘Ben would be at the gates every day without fail.
‘Every day he would stand outside the gates, waiting for cranes to come back in. He was always there, and now all of a sudden he’s not there.
‘It’s really strange and quite sad. He 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.’
Another worker, John Rowley, said: ‘He’d be there when the first crane came out and he’d still be there when the last crane came in at night.
‘I’d stand on the gate with him and we’d hear a crane coming and he’d say, ‘here comes Big Jim’. He knew the sound of every crane and the driver’s name.’
The firm have had a plaque made up for Ben which will be put up at the depot, mounted on the fence where Ben used to stand and wave at them.