Saturday, 2 November 2013

50 years ago: Coliseum blast kills 74

Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the explosion at the Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds that killed 74 people and injured hundreds of others.

Dawn Tabler was 10 years old when the propane gas explosion rocked the Holiday on Ice Halloween show.

“At first people thought that it was part of the show, because different times during the show they would have a firework or a loud boom,” Tabler said, recalling that night.

Tabler was in the audience for the show.

“What I remember very vividly is just seeing people going up,” she said. “We dropped everything, dropped our programs and stood for just a second. And then our parents and some people there directed us out.”

To exit the Coliseum, Tabler said she remembers stepping over people.

“There was just this feeling of, ‘I'm only 10 and I can't do anything. I can't do anything to help,” she said.

To this day, she wonders about the two boys who were sitting behind her.

“I wonder if everybody's OK, meaning their family, because they had moved to the other side," she said. "That's always haunted me, wondering if they were able to find their parents.”

For the next three years after the blast, Tabler said she had nightmares and day dreams about that night. In the 50 years since the tragedy, she said she’s felt a mix of emotions, from survivor’s guilty to a sense of gratitude. She said she feels blessed that her family’s tickets weren’t somewhere else in the Coliseum.

After the explosion, a Marion County grand jury indicted fire officials, Coliseum managers and gas company personnel, but only one person was ever convicted, and their case was overturned. Settlements totaling $4.6 million were awarded to victims and survivors. The blast prompted improvements to disaster communications and emergency response.

Fifty years later, the Coliseum is undergoing a $63 million dollar renovation. It should be complete sometime next year. The new 20,000 square foot arena will include a plaque to remember the 74 lives lost and roughly 400 people injured 50 years ago.

Saturday 02 November 2013


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