Weight-lifter chokes to death in home workout accident

A marathon runner, cyclist and mountain climber was choked to death by an Olympic barbell that apparently landed on his windpipe when he fell on the floor while working out alone at home.
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A marathon runner, cyclist and mountain climber was choked to death by an Olympic barbell that apparently landed on his windpipe when he fell on the floor while working out alone at home.

According to New Castle Town Police, Arthur Breuer, 63, was lifting weights by himself on Sept. 19 in an upstairs room in his house while no one else was home. When his wife returned home, she found him on the floor with the 260-pound barbell across his windpipe.

New Castle Detective Sergeant Marc Simmons told SNEWS® that this was not a case of someone trying to bench press too much weight. Rather, it was a small room crowded with quite a bit of equipment, including a squat rack.

"It's very possible he lost balance and tripped," Simmons said, adding that Breuer apparently fell backwards and the bar came to rest across his neck. "He was working out alone in a workout room and he slipped and fell.

"It was an unfortunate accident," he added. "Mr. Breuer was in more than decent physical condition. He was quite an individual."

The accident was reported in a 911 call by Breuer's wife of 35 years, Phyllis, from their home in Chappaqua, in the town of New Castle. Chappaqua is an upscale community in upstate New York and is where Bill and Hillary Clinton make their home. The Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death as "asphyxia due to neck compression," according to the local paper, The Journal News.

Breuer was an engineer who worked on reconstruction at Ground Zero for Verizon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the paper reported. After gaining a reputation as a mechanical engineer, he began his own consulting firm two decades ago. In his private life, he was an athlete who pushed the edges. He had trekked the Himalayas, raced motorcycles, climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest, ran marathons and cycled the Hudson Valley. He earned a reputation among local athletes as a tireless cyclist and marathon runner.

"He was an incredibly strong-willed individual, with a real attention to detail. No job was too small, and he loved the difficult, tough job," a colleague and running partner told the local paper. "He lived every dream he ever had. If he dreamed about climbing a mountain, he'd be out there, climbing mountains. Whatever he put his mind to, he excelled at."

Breuer had said in a recent interview, "I guess that's what I do -- I push myself. But it's fun."

SNEWS® View: This is indeed a tragic accident that points out that no one is too fit or too experienced, and that no exercise is too simple for something to happen. The accident also shows that having the proper equipment setup with sufficient space is vital -- and that is an area that both manufacturers and retailers can get involved with. And using equipment that doesn't require spotters for safety, such as home gyms with weight stacks and free weights with built-in spotting capability, may be something that should be seriously considered for everyone who intends to work out at home, especially if they intend to workout alone.

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