Richmond, Indiana explosion
|Date||April 6, 1968|
|Location||Downtown Richmond, Indiana|
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 on the southeast corner of the intersection of 6th and Main (US 40) streets. A secondary explosion was caused by gunpowder stored inside the building. Gas had been smelled leaking in the area for days before the explosion, and local stores would open doors to allow the fumes to ventilate out and leave buildings.
The explosion was due to a gas leak from a cast iron gas main which exploded outside Marting Arms. The pipe, which had become perforated as a result of corrosion, belonged to the Richmond Gas Co, which was found liable in a subsequent court case. It was uncertain what precisely had ignited the gunpowder, owing to the damage caused by the explosion and fire. Safety checks after the explosion found 20 gas leaks in the city in the next 2 months, although some of these may have been caused by the explosion.
Twenty buildings in and adjacent to the site of the explosion were condemned as a direct result of the explosions. Ultimately, Main Street (US 40) through downtown Richmond was closed to traffic and the downtown Promenade was built in 1972 (later expanded in 1978). This five-block pedestrian mall was converted to allow the street to be reopened to traffic 29 years after the explosion, in 1997, as part of an urban revitalization effort. Since 1972, US 40 has been re-routed to by-pass Main Street through downtown Richmond.
At the time of the explosion the racial tension nationwide as a result of the recent assassination of Martin Luther King two days earlier, and this overshadowed the loss of life from something preventable. Many people have attested that the aftermath brought together the townspeople to work together and overcome their grief and rebuild.
A simple curved brick memorial honoring those lost in the tragedy was erected in the downtown, with metal lettering: In memory of the forty-one persons who lost their lives in the tragic downtown explosion April 6, 1968 and with everlasting gratitude to those who helped give rebirth to this city. The memorial stands at the south-west corner of South Fifth and Main Streets on the grounds of the Wayne County Courthouse annex.
- Death in a Sunny Street: The Civil Defense story of the Richmond, Indiana disaster, April 6, 1968 by Esther Kellner (online library collection)
- Palladium Item Special Edition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the explosion.