Indianapolis, IN Fairgrounds Coliseum Explosion, Oct 1963
Death Toll Reaches 71 In Ice Rink Explosion
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The death toll in the Fairgrounds Coliseum blast - now blamed on leaking gas, ignited by a small household heater - has jumped to 71.
MRS. CECILE HOFFER, 72, Indianapolis, died in Methodist Hospital today of injuries suffered in the explosion. Her husband was killed in the blast.
MRS. ELENORA M. RICKETTS, 81, Indianapolis, died in Methodist Hospital Sunday night of injuries suffered in the Halloween night disaster - the worst in Indiana history.
The woman was one of 385 persons injured in the violent explosion that ripped piano-sized chunks of concrete from a box-seat section and hurled them into the air along with spectators bodies. A Holiday on Ice revue was beginning its finale when the blast struck.
CHARLES P. HILL, fire prevention chief, said Sunday that liquid petroleum gas spilling from a tank and ignited by a small heater apparently caused the explosion.
HILL said key pieces to the cause of the blast came from WILBUR W. GAUTHIER, 54, who directed vendors selling popcorn and soft drinks to the ice show crowd.
GAUTHIER, critically injured by the explosion, had been unable to speak with investigators until Sunday.
He reported seeing three liquid petroleum tanks in a room where pre-popped corn was kept warm until it could be boxed.
Suddenly there was a blazing sound, GAUTHIER related. As he walked to the popcorn bin, one of the unconnected tanks toppled, falling to the floor on the side.
GAUTHIER said when a mist started enveloping the fallen tank, he yelled for everyone to get out and headed toward the tank to shut off the valve. The explosion stopped the concession manager's effort.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise New York 1963-11-11
On October 31, 1963, during a Holiday on Ice show, a propane leak at a concession stand caused an explosion which killed 74 people. A memorial plaque was dedicated 40 years later in the building, but it has since been removed. Another plaque honoring the explosion victims currently hangs inside the building's entrance.