Second explosion fears delayed help for man who died after chemical factory blast
PUBLISHED: 17:09 28 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:10 28 October 2020
Archant Norfolk 2016
Fears of a second blast and confusion over the information given to paramedics delayed helping a man who died after an explosion at a chemical plant in Norwich, an inquest has heard.
Contractor Robert Cranston, 46, was carrying out maintenance work on a tank at Briar Chemicals alongside fellow workers, including his son Owen, when he suffered blast injuries and thermal burns in an explosion.
Following the accident on July 27, 2018 he was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital but died later the same day.
The second day of an inquest into his death heard Gerald De Falco, the factory’s fire safety officer at the time, feared another explosion could occur.
Arriving at the scene after the factory-wide alarm sounded, he was met by Mr Cranston’s fellow worker, self-employed pipefitter Kevin Headford.
“He was in shock and was very keen on getting Rob off the scaffold,” said Mr De Falco. “I wasn’t because my initial thoughts were that there could be a secondary explosion.
“I was planning on putting something in place to try to mitigate the risk. Then when we had water fog on the whole vessel to damp the atmosphere and take control, we could deal with the casualty.”
MORE: Son witnessed father’s death in chemical plant explosion, inquest hears
The inquest had previously heard that Mr Cranston had been using grinding and welding equipment on the chemical tank they had been told had been drained and flushed.
Gas monitoring prior to him being issued a safety permit to carry out the work had failed to detect levels of Toluene, a highly flammable chemical used in the production of herbicides and a component of TNT.
Paramedic Delphean Onslow told the inquest they had been met with confusion when they arrived at the main gate to the factory on Sweet Briar Road.
She said: “When we first arrived there was no one around and it didn’t look like anything had happened.”
She said they were eventually directed into the factory but “we were still confused about what was actually happening”.
Mr Cranston, who had also suffered a large laceration to his head, was eventually rushed to hospital. He stopped breathing during the eight minutes it took to transport him to the NNUH where he later died.
The inquest, being heard before a jury and expected to last nine days, continues.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Norwich Evening News. Click the link in the orange box above for details.