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Pinsetter machine crushes bowling alley owner to death, Colorado cops say

Ector Rodriquez, the owner of a bowling alley in Florence, Colorado, died in a freak accident when he was crushed by the pin-setting machine. The former owner of the alley said the equipment “wasn’t real modern.”
Ector Rodriquez, the owner of a bowling alley in Florence, Colorado, died in a freak accident when he was crushed by the pin-setting machine. The former owner of the alley said the equipment “wasn’t real modern.” Facebook/Fremont Lanes

The owner of a bowling alley in Florence, Colorado, died Sunday afternoon in a freak accident when he was crushed by the pin-setting machine.

Police and fire and rescue personnel found Ector Rodriguez, 65, trapped in the machine, unconscious and not breathing, according to the Canon City Daily Record.

Police said it was an accident, the newspaper reported.

The business was open at the time, and people were bowling, according to Fox 21 in Colorado Springs.

Rodriguez had gone back to service the machine, and when an employee hadn’t seen him in 15, 20 minutes, she went to check on him, Florence Police Chief Mike DeLaurentis told Fox 21. “And that’s when she found him trapped in the machine and called 911,” he said.

The former owner of Fremont Lanes, Larry Baker, told the Fox station that Rodriquez, who was 65, was a “one-man show” running the alley. “He’s manager as well as mechanic,” Baker said.

“And I know how pins fly and all that. I can just think of many things that could go wrong. And the other thing is, it wasn’t real modern equipment, it had some age.

“Accidents do happen.”

Social media photos show the alley is more old-school than high-tech, but nothing has been reported about the age of the equipment that killed Rodriguez.

In a town of about 4,000 residents, the bowling alley on Main Street is a hub of activity. Photos on the bowling alley’s Facebook page show kids having birthday parties, leagues playing and people posting about ringing in the New Year there.

Rodriquez sat the bench outside the alley and talked to people as they walked by, the police chief told Fox 21. After Rodriquez died, TV reports show, people left flowers and cards near the front door.

People leaving condolences on the Daily Record’s Facebook page remembered Rodriquez as an “amazing” bowler, too.

“There are so many people who live their lives just for themselves, and he was not that person,” Susan Wilson told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “He should have died a 99-year-old man with his family surrounding him, you know?”

In 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated a similar accident at a bowling alley near Cincinnati that killed a worker who was repairing the pin-setting machine.

Like the accident in Colorado, there were bowlers and other employees in the alley at the time, but no one saw what happened, according to Fox News. The coroner ruled that 53-year-old David Geiger, who had worked in bowling alleys for 30 years, died of accidental traumatic asphyxia, Fox reported.

“He knew exactly what he was doing back there,” former co-worker Nathan Hursell told a local TV station, according to Fox. “It’s one of those things where you don’t think twice of that happening. It’s just a common spot that we get in the machines and it’s just a freak accident.”

That same year, 29-year-old Vidal Garcia, a part-time mechanic at a bowling alley in Brownsville, Texas, also died when his shirt collar got “tangled in a faulty pinsetter, strangling him as the machine twisted the collar tighter,” OSHA reported on its website.

OSHA determined that the machine’s “unguarded, rotating shafts” contributed to his death and cited the business with safety violations.

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