Richmond, IN Gas Explosion, Apr 1968
Paust said people helped clear bricks and debris to get to the injured.
“There was no concern among the helpers for their own safety, even after one of them was injured slightly by exploding ammunition,” he said.
“There seemed to be little panic. There were just too many acts of heroism to cite any one as outstanding.”
Only a crater remained where the sporting goods store stood at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets. Neighboring buildings were torn apart. Flames damaged other buildings.
Three buildings were destroyed, five damaged severely. Windows were shattered for blocks around.
Some of the dead and injured were trapped in cars crushed by the blast and falling debris. Once car was hurled 50 feet. Officials said more than 150 vehicles were demolished.
Several hundred volunteers joined police, firemen and National Guardsmen searching the rubble. Many of the dead were burned or mutilated beyond recognition. Bodies were placed in plastic bags and taken to the temporary morgue in the armory of this city of 44,000 on the Ohio border.
An FBI disaster squad worked on identifications, taking fingerprints, noting scars and unusual body marks. Dentists made detailed diagrams of missing teeth, fillings and malformations.
There were more volunteers to aid in searching than officials could accommodate. At Earlham College outside the city 700 students offered to help.
“We just don't have enough for that many people to do,” an official said.
Two Earlham students did help. David White, a junior from New York City, worked Saturday until midnight, got six hours sleep and returned.
“I just couldn't see myself sitting around,” he said. “I knew if I came downtown they'd find something for me to do.”
“I know a little first aid,” said Heidi Earhart, Ithaca, N.Y., freshman. “They let me come to help while most of the other students had to stay at the college.”
The restaurant in which Capt. Paust was eating is half a block from the sporting goods store. “I thought somebody had thrown a bomb through the window,” said Mrs. Kathleen Chappel, restaurant operator.
Shattered glass was spewed through the cafe. “We got everybody – about 50 customers – out the back door, except for two women sitting in a booth, who were cut,” Mrs. Chappel said.
The Kokomo Tribune Indiana 1968-04-08
The Richmond, Indiana, explosion was a double explosion which occurred at 1:47 PM EST on Saturday, April 6, 1968, in downtown Richmond, Indiana. The explosions killed 41 people and injured more than 150. The primary explosion was due to natural gas leaking from one or more faulty transmission lines under the Marting Arms sporting goods store, located at the intersection of 6th and Main (US 40) streets. A secondary explosion was caused by gunpowder stored inside the building.
Slide Show on the Explosion