Survivor of deadly coliseum explosion speaks out on 50th anniversary

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Photos courtesy of Bass Photo Co. Collection at the Indiana Historical Society

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Today marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic explosion inside the State Fairgrounds Coliseum that killed 74 people on Oct. 31, 1963.

Spectators were at the coliseum on the State Fairgrounds for an ice show when gas leaking from a concessions propane tank made its way to a popcorn machine and ignited an enormous blast.

Survivor J.D. Rogers was 12-years old at the time. He was there with his grandparents, brother, two sisters, and a couple of his grandparents’ friends. His grandparents and their friends died in the explosion.

“The first things I saw were, um, family members that, uh, had been killed and so you’re telling yourself to wake up from a bad dream. But of course, it’s not. It’s reality,” said Rogers.

Rogers has since written a book about the tragedy.

Hoosiers who want to help honor the victims can visit the State Fairgrounds Thursday starting at 7 a.m. on the east end of the coliseum.  There will be a banner, wreath and candlelight display there as a memorial.