WAKEFIELD – A truck accidentally crashed into the back of Old Mountain Lanes on Thursday afternoon, luckily managing to not injure anyone or cause major damage.
“If it had to hit, it hit in the right place,” said Old Mountain Lanes owner Robert Toth. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Had it hit few feet to the right, a structural beam could have been taken out, Toth said, potentially putting the building at risk of collapsing. A few feet to the left and a burst water main could have meant the entire bowling alley becoming a swimming pool.
The most important thing was that no one was hurt, Toth said, including the driver.
At this time, the driver of the vehicle has not been publicly identified. An official accident report is not expected to be released until sometime later this week, according to Louise Zielinski of the South Kingstown Police Department’s Records Office. Zielinski was able to confirm that the driver was given five citations, however, including operating without registration and operating the vehicle without a commercial driver’s license.
Toth and Phil Bonin, who’s served as Old Mountain Lane’s mechanic for the past decade, both described the crash like an explosion.
“I was in the office and we heard a ‘BOOM,’” Toth said. “It sounded like an explosion. We jumped up and ran out, and I saw some debris on the lanes.”
His immediate thought was that maybe there was a partial roof collapse. The people who had been bowling on lane 19, just on the other side of where the truck came crashing through the wall, looked just as confused as Toth was when he ran out onto the floor.
In the back of the bowling alley, Toth and Bonin found the front nose of the truck resting inside the building and debris from the crumbled cinder blocks covering the floor and machines.
“Anyone standing in that area probably would have been killed, but fortunately no one was hurt,” Toth said.
Bonin, who’d been servicing one of the lanes on the other side of the bowling alley all morning, had been walking that stretch of floor, back and forth, every time he needed another tool from his office.
“I make my living back there,” Bonin said, gesturing to the back of the bowling alley. “It was a little surreal looking at the truck hanging inside and knowing what could have happened. You can’t be wrapped up in could have, you know? The past is the past, but it was a little scary.”
“It’s dangerous enough as it is,” he added.
Luckily, Bonin had decided to take his lunch break at the time of the accident and was talking with Toth in his office when it happened. Both of them were shocked when they discovered the truck – Bonin described it as something you’d expect to see on television shows like Chicago PD or Chicago Fire, not in real life in your place of business.
It was Toth who noticed liquid was leaking all over the floor, though.
While the fluid turned out to only be antifreeze, Toth quickly had the building evacuated out of fear that it could be a flammable oil leak. It was better to be safe than sorry, though, he said, and everyone was quick to file out of the building regardless of where they were in their game.
The response Old Mountain Lane received from the Union Fire District was immediate, Toth said. Some of the firefighters were even bowling inside the building at the time of the accident. The town’s building inspector also came to assess the damage.
“Once we found out the electrical system in the building was not compromised, there was no structural problem – the building inspector came over and looked at it and assessed it from the town, and they determined that we could reopen,” Toth said.
The gaping hole was not sealed until the following day but did not stop anyone from coming down that night. Six lanes remained closed, however, which received most of the debris and potential damage. Toth said he’ll need to bring in a professional to make sure they’re safe to operate before opening them up for bowling again.
The most expensive damage caused in the accident was to a $40,000 piece of machinery, which conditions and cleans all of the lanes on a daily basis.
Although it seems like a lot, Bonin said the damage could have been much, much worse. He and Toth agreed that if the truck had to hit anywhere, it hit in the right place.
“It was like a flesh wound, through and through,” Bonin said. “Nothing else seems to be damaged.”
“We don’t realize how lucky we are sometimes,” he added.
Although the building will be turning 60 years old this year, Toth has only owned it since 1995, making updates and helping to keep it relevant in that time. It’s something he’s proud of since lots of places like it have been closing their doors for good, all across the county.
He’s glad that the accident didn’t turn into a tragedy, and that Old Mountain Lanes is safe and open for business.
“It’s everything from students to older people – it’s a pretty integral part of the community,” Toth said. “It’s sort of like the hub of the community. When you think about the school relationships and the college relationships, and the senior citizen relationships – it’s a building where we’re entertaining people from 3 to 93.”
The damages that are still left behind “are only brick and mortar,” and the important thing is that the community has remained unharmed and safe.