1987: Military plane crashes into Indianapolis Ramada Inn

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Posted at 6:45 AM, Oct 19, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — Tragedy struck near the Indianapolis International Airport on October 20, 1987.

An Air Force jet attempting to make an emergency landing, crashed into a bank and then a hotel near the airport, killing ten people.

The tragedy began to unfold early that morning during pilot Maj. Bruce Teagarden’s flight from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas. While near the Ohio border, Teagarden reported an engine problem and headed to Indianapolis to make an emergency landing.

Cloud cover hindered Tegarden’s landing and he overshot the runway. The jet clipped a bank and then crashed into the Airport Ramada, engulfing the building in flames.

Witnesses say they saw the plane having trouble before the crash.

"We saw a big ball of fire," one witness said. "Everything was shattering around. We got under the table. I grabbed my briefcase and ran out the back door of the hotel."

Teagarden successfully ejected from the aircraft before the crash.

WRTV spoke with Shelia Carson in 2018. Carson, a 21-year-old Ramada Inn employee, would have been inside the hotel that day, but she overslept.

Jack Cameron had a room at the Ramada Inn while visiting Indianapolis for a conference.

1987: Witness describes Ramada Inn plane crash

“All I heard was like a double boom, and the building kind of shook,” Cameron told reporters at the crash scene. “Next thing I know is there’s smoke everywhere.”

WRTV recently spoke with Cameron about that fateful day.

“It changed everything,” Cameron said.

Cameron remembers seeing thick black smoke in the hotel hallway after the explosions. It was at that point that he knew he had to go through the window or he would suffocate. Cameron broke a double pane window with a chair and jumped onto the roof of the pool. He suffered cuts on his hands and feet.

The Ramada fire wasn’t Cameron’s only close call either. He said he’s also escaped fires at a hardware store and another hotel fire.

The charred remnants of the hotel stood for two years before being demolished. A parking lot is all that remains at the crash site.