Aaron Fechter must be one of history's strangest mechanical geniuses. After inventing Whac-A-Mole, the timeless game that allows children to beat the hell out of buck-toothed creatures popping out of holes, he rented a gigantic central Florida warehouse to create robotic, animatronic rock bands for Chuck E. Cheese's and ShowBiz Pizza Place franchises.
Lately, he'd turned his attention to an alternative fuel that supposedly burned cleaner than propane -- but apparently was equally explosive. Fechter's warehouse spectacularly blew up yesterday, causing chaos near downtown Orlando and leaving robots scattered around burning rubble.
The explosion rocked downtown Orlando around 12:30 yesterday afternoon, shaking nearby office buildings and sending workers running outside to see what had happened.
One wall of Fechter's building collapsed in the blast. Bystanders who arrived to check for casualties found a bizarre scene: No humans were hurt in the explosion, but robotic limbs smoldered amid the wreckage.
"It was weird," Tim Roth, an office worker who rushed into the building, tells the Orlando Sentinel, which described the interior as the "Joker's Lair."
A recent YouTube video gives a glimpse of Fechter's work in the business, which he called Creative Enterprises. He shows off early computer models, animatronic creatures, and then his latest project: a new fuel called carbohydrillium.
Fechter uses the gas to cook hamburgers for the video crew while he explains it burns cleaner than propane.
That same gas is to blame for the blast, police say. Investigators now believe one of the machines used to build the dancing robots ignited the cooking gas.
Fechter is cooperating with police in the investigation.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.