Brewing giant Mitchells and Butlers was ordered to pay nearly £55,000 after a worker was crushed to death in a bowling alley machine.

The company, which owns the Hollywood Bowl group, failed to protect technician Ferdinand Dela Cruz, 34, who suffocated under the mechanism which resets the pins.

The married father-of-one had climbed inside the equipment to clean it during opening hours at the alley in Jenkins Lane, Barking on July 6, 2006, when he accidentally triggered the system.

Mr Dela Cruz ‘competent, professional and respected’ team leader who had been working as a technician for five years, failed to unplug the electrics and a sensor was activated, bringing the mechanism on top of him

Only some of the lanes had been closed and players continued unwittingly to bowl nearby as he was killed.

Mr De la Cruz was found dead inside the apparatus by a colleague who went to find him.

The death of Mr Dela Cruz, a Filipino who lived with his wife Maria and child in East Ham, east London, initially triggered a murder inquiry and police were hunting five teenagers.

But it was eventually discovered the blame lay in flouted Health and Safety procedures at the since-closed venue.

Matthew Paul, prosecuting, told Inner London Crown Court: ‘The decision to clean the pin cups without isolating the machinery was wholly out of character.’

But the barrister said Mitchells and Butler were legally responsible for Mr Dela Cruz’s safety and his death could have been avoided if a full risk-assessment had been carried out.

As a result of the accident the company has shelled out £2.28million on a bespoke guarding system which when lifted, automatically isolates the power.

It is currently being rolled out to all of its 23 bowling centres in England and Scotland.

Passing sentence Judge Robert Fraser said: ‘It is a particularly sad case, given the death of Mr Dela Cruz.

‘You accept as a company you failed to put in place adequate guarding of the machinery.

‘Had the machine been fitted with a guard that isolated the power, his death could have been avoided.

‘No sentence that I pass is going to bring back the victim’s life.’

The judge fined the company £40,000 and ordered it to pay £14,838.37 costs.

On behalf of the company Gary Crawford, acting operations director for Hollywood Bowl, admitted one count of failing to discharge a duty under the health and safety at work act 1974.

Prosecutors offered no evidence on a remaining two like counts and a further nine charges of contravening health and safety regulations and the company was cleared.

Newham Council’s Executive Member for Public Protection, Councillor Andrew Baikie, said: ‘The council welcomes the judge’s decision to impose a substantial fine on Mitchells and Butlers Retail Ltd for its failure to protect a father who was killed doing his job so he could provide for his family, and our thoughts our with them at this time.

‘Newham Council prosecuted the company following an investigation into the accident that took place in July 2006 at Hollywood Bowl in Beckton.

‘The Council discovered that machinery used nationally in bowling alleys did not have adequate safety features and therefore posed a risk to centre staff when carrying out repairs and maintenance.

‘The study also revealed that the machinery did not comply with GB or European safety standards.

‘The Health and Safety Executive has since the accident issued new guidance to all Local Authority Health and Safety Enforcement teams and regulators as a result.

‘We hope the outcome of this case that will ensure the future safety of all bowling alley technicians.

‘Newham Council will never shy away from dealing robustly with employers, large or small, where evidence exists that they flout the law the in pursuit of profit at the expense of people’s safety.’