Florence bowling alley owner killed after getting stuck in pinsetting machine

FLORENCE, Colo. (KKTV) - A memorial is growing outside a Florence bowling alley following the sudden death of its beloved owner.

The owner of Florence's Fremont Lanes was killed over the weekend after he became trapped in a pinsetter machine.

Police Chief Michael DeLaurentis said an employee found 65-year-old Ector Rodriguez after she went to check on him Sunday afternoon.

"[He] was unsticking a pin return machine," DeLaurentis said. "When she got back there, she found the owner ... he was trapped inside that machine.

"She called 911, and officers from the Florence Police Department and the Florence Fire Department responded, but they were unable to revive him at that time."

Police are still investigating how Rodriguez became pinned, but DeLaurentis guesses it was a machine malfunction.

"The machine from what I remember and have seen, it comes down and lowers and reset the pin and then comes back up again, so something must’ve gotten stuck. ... Somehow he got stuck between the returning of the pins. At this time we don’t know if it malfunctioned or if he was just in the wrong place when it came back up and trapped him in that machine."

Rodriguez was unconscious and not breathing when first responders arrived and was later confirmed to have died at the scene. The tragedy has left the community reeling.

"It's going to be a big loss," DeLaurentis said. "I've talked to Mr. Rodriguez many times, and I see him sitting on the bench outside the bowling alley and talking to people who would stop by, and they would talk to him regularly. ... He was very well known to the community and liked by everyone and opened his door up, and you just wanted to walk in. The bowling was open to just sit and chat with him and it was almost like a barbershop."

An autopsy will be performed Tuesday.