Seventy-four people were killed and nearly 400 were injured at a “Holiday on Ice” show in Indianapolis on October 31, 1963. Here are the words of a survivor of the blast that occurred at 11.00 pm three minutes from the end of the show.

The skaters were all facing the audience for the grand finale.

Suddenly, we felt our seats jerk. Flames shot up in front of us and bodies were flying. In the confusion, I tried to reach a man who I thought was my husband. Then my husband grabbed me and headed for an exit.

We climbed over debris. The first doors were locked. I lost my shoes and coat. Where did our Mothers go? Where were Bob’s sister and husband?

We had been in seats like this.
Photo credit: Indianapolis Star

Little did we know that we had been sitting atop the popcorn tanks leaking the gas that exploded. The flames went out. They say our seats collapsed after we got away. The people sitting in front of us had been seated on folding chairs. Those chairs and people were thrown out onto the ice.

We made our way to the car. Both of our Mothers, and Karen and Ken also made it out of the carnage. We could see the flames and thought the entire coliseum was afire.

The people in front were not so lucky. Photo credit: Indianapolis Star

The following morning the newspaper had the story. Our friends who knew where we were sitting thought we had been killed. People on the other side of the rink could see that the explosion was localized.

As the day went on, we realized we were in a state of shock. We were lucky survivors.


Contributed by: Beverly Heid


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3 thoughts on “Boom !

  1. My oldest daughter was 7. She was supposed to go that night with a friend’s family; but she was sick and stayed home. My friends, her school friends, our church friends – all knew she was supposed to be there. How do you call and ask, “Is your daughter OK?” Thank goodness she was home safe.
    So many police and fire were involved, they were stretched thin. There was so many people affected, that almost everyone in the city knew someone who was there; or they knew someone who knew someone who was there. The entire city was traumatized.

  2. I remember it because close friends were hurt during the explosion. They were 4 or 5 rows up. He was only slightly injured. Her injuries were more severe tho’ not life threatening. They always expressed gratitude that their injuries were no worse than they were as many around them were killed.

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