Coliseum Explosion Still Indiana’s Worst Disaster

"Indiana Newsdesk" takes a look back to what was making the news in our “History Through Headlines” segment.

The date was November 1st, 1963. John F. Kennedy was president, “Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs was the number 1 single and Hoosiers experienced one of the worst disasters in state history.

The headline reads, “65 killed, hundreds hurt in Coliseum gas explosion.”

4,300 people were watching “Holidays on Ice” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum when faulty propane tanks were ignited by a popcorn maker underneath the stands.

“All of a sudden there was a terrific explosion, and a gas flame about 50 feet high roared into the air, and the bodies were laying all over the arena. It was the most horrible spectacle that I ever witnessed,” says Indianapolis mayor at the time, Albert Losche.

Emergency services spent days digging through the rubble searching for survivors.

The city didn’t have the means to handle a disaster of this size, so the ice rink was used as a temporary morgue until the bodies were identified by family members.

In all, 75 people died and nearly 400 were injured.

Many would remember November 1963 for a different tragedy. Three weeks later, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Joe Hren

Anchor, Indiana Newsdesk - WTIU & WFIU News. Follow him on Twitter @Joe_Hren

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