Woman was eyewitness to two Indiana State Fair tragedies - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Woman was eyewitness to two Indiana State Fair tragedies

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Kristi Zunis was at the Sugarland concert Saturday but decided to leave when she saw the weather approaching. Kristi Zunis was at the Sugarland concert Saturday but decided to leave when she saw the weather approaching.
This photo shows Kristi, four, and her mother, moments after the explosion. This photo shows Kristi, four, and her mother, moments after the explosion.
Kristi's brother Gregory, 5, was killed. Kristi's brother Gregory, 5, was killed.
A plaque at the State Fairgrounds commemorates all of the victims. A plaque at the State Fairgrounds commemorates all of the victims.

INDIANAPOLIS - For at least one person at Saturday night's concert, the situation was eerily familiar. Kristi Zunis was also at the fairgrounds nearly 50 years ago during a massive explosion.

Zunis survived both tragedies, but she is now reliving a nightmare from five decades ago.

When the skies darkened above the fairgrounds Saturday night, Kristi Zunis and her husband decided to get out.

"No sooner did we make it out the gate then the wind hit," she said.

Zunis knew they'd miss the Sugarland concert, but she had good reason to be leery.

"I can't believe history is repeating itself and I'm here," she said.

It was Halloween night, 1963. A propane gas leak during the Holiday on Ice show led to a massive explosion at the Pepsi Coliseum. Nearly 400 were injured and more than 70 lost their lives, including five-year-old Gregory Dill. His little sister Kristi was four years old.

"How fortunate I am, even though I lost my best friend that night at the Coliseum," she said. "How fortunate I am not to have been injured or my husband injured Saturday night."

What happened at the fairgrounds on October 31st, 1963 will never be forgotten. There's a plaque near the entrance to make sure of that. It displays the names of the 74 people who died including that of Gregory Dill.

Zunis still has her brother's sweater, the one he wearing the night he was killed. A photo shows Zunis and her mother moments after the disaster.

"What haunts me about that picture is what my mother must have felt because my brother was buried in the debris," she said.

Nearly 50 years apart, two of the states' worst tragedies are separated by just a few hundred yards.

"I think it's wrong place, wrong time, things happen. It's a combination of things. But still I think there could be a lot of precautions taken and sometimes people are asleep at the wheel," she said.

Kristi Zunis hopes lessons are learned from what happened Saturday to prevent a third tragedy.

After the Coliseum explosion, her family received $7,000 compensation for her brother's death. A total of $4.6 million was distributed to victims and survivors.

Gov. Mitch Daniels says he would be willing to meet with the victims' families if it proved to not be an intrusion. He was also asked if the state was prepared to pay restitution.

"We have means for that. There is insurance for that. There are ways to deal with that and they need to be fully and completely compensated," said the governor.

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