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"You know how my friend's dad was the person who got injured during Series 3? He told me what the name of the robot was. He says it was called Roadkill"
— Ellis, an indirect contact of Alex Rofaila[1]

Roadkill was a heavyweight robot slated to compete in The Third Wars. Although the robot and its team were present during filming for Series 3, Roadkill ultimately did not compete, following a serious behind-the-scenes accident involving the machine.

Design[]

"For sure... my memory was the bot was bristling with spikes, looked like a hedgehog, lots of thin steel tubing cut at very sharpy lookin' angles."
— Geoff Warren describing Roadkill in a 2020 Facebook comment[2]

Roadkill was a hedgehog-shaped robot with thin steel tubing as armour, which was painted blue and cut at very sharp angles. Weighing around 77kg (170lbs),[3] it was armed with a multitude of spikes, including on top of the machine.

Qualification[]

"Rex Garrod, 56, claimed the same robot injured a technician in the arm in a similar accident months earlier."
— Daily Mirror article concerning an incident Roadkill was involved in during qualifying[4]

Roadkill's attempt to qualify for The Third Wars is mired in controversy. Although the full details are unknown, Roadkill suffered technical issues that caused it go out of control. This led to it colliding with a technician, injuring his arm in the process. While several roboteers, most notably Rex Garrod, were critical of the lack of safety standards that would have prevented the incident,[5] Roadkill was still present during filming for Series 3. It is unknown whether it was selected to compete in the main competition, as a reserve, or exclusively within the side competitions.

Incident[]

A newspaper report regarding the incident involving Roadkill

"The tech was standing close by, probably in front, the bot jerked forward (probably RC interference, there was lots in that studio environment, we all used 40MHz FM back then and yeah, Milly was glitchin' a bit during our battle) banging into his feet the tech fell on top of the robot and yeah, got spiked. H&S lockdown ensued"
— Geoff Warren describing the incident in a 2020 Facebook comment[2]

During filming for The Third Wars, Roadkill was present in the pits, being situated on top of a trolley by the time Milly-Ann Bug lost to Bumblebot.[2] According to Craig Danby, Roadkill was equipped with a cheaply made rotary key switch on a "barrel" as demanded by the Series 3 rulebook, which under normal circumstances would have turned off the robot by having the key move both the barrel and the contactor, immobilising the machine. However, when Roadkill's team used the key, the switch became detached from the barrel, which meant that the key moved the barrel but not the contactor, resulting in the machine remaining switched on when brought into the arena.[6]

Although Roadkill was still mobile, this alone would not have caused the incident. Ultimately however, filming was affected by severe radio control interference. Henceforth, when the team unloaded the machine from the trolley onto the arena floor, the resulting interference caused the robot to suddenly start moving. With no functional switch to immobilise the machine, Roadkill made contact with the feet of Robot Wars assistant director Alex Rofaila, who was situated close by the machine, causing him to fall on top of the machine's spikes. One spike penetrated his lower leg, and the out of control machine dragged him across the arena before it was finally stopped, according to Kim Davies.[7] When asked about the incident, Rofaila had little recollection of the incident, and Robot Wars in general.

"To be honest it’s was 20 years ago now and I have more important things to be getting in with!"
— Rofaila's response when asked about his time on the show

An alternative report on the incident from Richard Pearce of Eye of Newt claims that the incident occurred as Rofaila was hauling Roadkill out of the pit, as crew did not have a remote way of activating and resetting the pit prior to Series 4. Though unconfirmed by Rofaila himself, this fits the aforementioned newspaper article's description of the incident, stating Rofaila was attempting to "pick up" the 77kg robot.[8] If accurate, this may well have directly resulted in the changes to the arena (and most fittingly, the pit) for The Fourth Wars onwards. However, this account has conflicting details when compared to other recollections of the incident.

"He said the incident happened because the pit didn't have a lift, so someone had to climb in to get the robots out, and that's when the robot reactivated."
— Indirect contact Mouse-Keyboard summarises Richard Pearce's take on the incident

According to various sources, Rofaila suffered a leg-related injury, specifically to his ankle, which required hospital treatment.[9] Rofaila himself states the incident happened in front of the live audience, and he was unable to walk for 16 weeks afterwards, but made a full recovery.[10][11] Roadkill was removed from the arena shortly after the incident.

"I was the one that was attacked by a robot .. in the arena, in front of all the audience."
— Alex Rofaila describing the incident in September 2021

Legacy[]

East Anglian Daily Times article on Rex Garrod's departure from Robot Wars

"For one accident to occur is bad, But for two of the exact same fault to occur in my book is nothing short of criminal. I have no intention of returning to Robot Warss until I'm satisfied that safety is up to the standards I am used to in my profession (Special effects for T.V Films & Advertising). After these almighty cockups things have taken a giant step forward, But from information recieved by many of the last wars contestants, it still has a long way to go. And self important people still rule, both in safety and common courtesy."
— Rex Garrod[5]

While coverage of the incident is limited, with discussion on the official Robot Wars forum being removed,[12] it did result in various consequences for Series 3 and Robot Wars as a whole. Roadkill's incident forced filming to cease for two days,[10] where as a result various side events were cancelled,[13][14][15][16] the toning down of the Middleweight Championship to a single Middleweight Melee, and the allocation of machines in the Pinball Competition and Robotic Soccer being altered.[17][18] Multiple health and safety rule changes were swiftly made and enforced, including prohibiting CO2 cylinders inside the arena.[4]

Perhaps the biggest consequence of the accident was the prompt retirement of Rex Garrod, who was angered at the show's lax health and safety standards and quit the show in protest following Series 3.[4] The issues surrounding the unreliability of rotary key switches also led to removable links becoming mandatory,[2] and would remain enforced even throughout the reboot era of the show. Likely because of the incident, Roadkill never appeared on the show again.

Series Record[]

Series Roadkill Series Record
The First Wars Did not enter
The Second Wars Did not enter
The Third Wars Disqualified
The Fourth Wars Did not enter
The Fifth Wars Did not enter
The Sixth Wars Did not enter
The Seventh Wars Did not enter
Series 8 Did not enter
Series 9 Did not enter
Series 10 Did not enter

References[]

  1. Correspondence with Ellis on the OOTA Discord, 2020
  2. East Anglian Daily Times article, January 8 2000.
  3. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Tinweb post concerning Rex Garrod's retirement following Roadkill's incident
  4. 5.0 5.1 Tectonic Robot Wars' interview with Rex Garrod
  5. Correspondence with Craig Danby in 2020 on the Out of the Arena Discord.
  6. Correspondence with Kim Davies in 2020.
  7. Private correspondence between Mouse-Keyboard and work manager Richard Pearce
  8. Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports
  9. 10.0 10.1 Craig Charles' website, detailing his account of the incident
  10. Private correspondence between SFCJack and Alex Rofaila in September 2021
  11. Unofficial Robot Wars post discussing limited coverage of Roadkill's incident
  12. Archived Team General website confirming the cancellation of Featherweight and Lightweight competitions following the incident.
  13. Archived Tinweb discussion concerning the cancellation of Grudge and Tag Team side events following the incident.
  14. Archived Medusa 2000 website confirming the cancellation of the Sumo event following the incident.
  15. Private correspondence between Diotoir the son of nemesis and Simon Harrison regarding the cancellation of the Antweight competition following the incident
  16. Archived Razer website discussing how the Roadkill incident meant Razer would compete in Pinball instead of Robotic Soccer.
  17. Archived Velocirippa website concerning the machine being taken off Pinball and eventually placed in Robotic Soccer following the incident.
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