Volume 39, Issue 3 (May 1994)
Investigation of the 1987 Indianapolis Airport Ramada Inn Incident
On October 20, 1987, a military reserve aircraft lost power during a transcontinental flight and attempted an emergency landing at The Indianapolis International Airport. The pilot ejected and the disabled and pilotless aircraft struck a bank building. It then skidded across the street and entered the lobby of The Airport Ramada Inn where it exploded. This incident was unusual in that the fatal injuries occurred in individuals on the ground and not in the occupant of the aircraft. Seven people were killed in the lobby area and two were trapped in a laundry where they died of smoke inhalation. A tenth person died of burns ten days later. Minor injuries were reported among four hotel guests, two firefighters and the Air Force pilot. A multiagency mass disaster-plan had been formulated and rehearsed in preparation for the Panamerican Games, which had been held in Indianapolis in August 1987. A number of volunteers arrived before a security perimeter was established. They began an undocumented removal of the bodies from the scene and were about to remove valuables for “safekeeping” when stopped by coroners' office personnel. Fatalities resulted from smoke inhalation, burns or a combination. Bodies were identified by a combination of dental records, personal effects and visual means within 24 hours. The problems encountered in managing this disaster scene will also be compared with previously reported incidents.