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Eau Claire bowling alley worker rescues toddler pulled into ball return

  • Associated Press
  • February 13, 2014 - 4:29 PM

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — A toddler pulled into a ball return machine after wandering down a lane at a Wisconsin bowling alley has been rescued by one of the alley's employees.

The Leader-Telegram, of Eau Claire, reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/MOaL5R) that employee Andy Gardner was on his way out the door after his shift last weekend when he heard some bowlers shouting.

"Everyone had stopped bowling," said bowler Neil Haas, who was playing for the first time at the alley. "Then we saw this little guy on his hands and knees near the pin area ... then the little kid was dragged into the pit, and we were watching the pin setter come down."

Gardner saw the boy cross a laser that triggers a mechanized bar that swoops down to clear the pins. The bar pulled the child along with the pins into the ball pit.

Gardner ran down the lane and turned off the machine, saving the child from harm.

"He got down there fast," Haas said. "He didn't think twice about anything. He just reacted."

Another bowler who ran to help brought the toddler back to his parents.

"He was crying and didn't want to move, but it didn't look like he'd been hurt," Gardner said. "I slid him towards me on his belly a little bit," he added.

Gardner didn't get the name of the boy or his parents, who thanked him and apologized.

© 2014 Star Tribune