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Ramada Inn

Air Crash and Fire
Wayne Township, Indiana

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On October 20, 1987 at 0911, the control tower at the Indianapolis
Airport was advised by the pilot of an A-7D Corsair single-engine military aircraft of an intended emergency landing due to engine failure. The Airport Fire Department began its normal response to set up on the intended runway. Due to low weather ceiling and poor visibility the plane overshot the intended runway, circled the airport and attempted to fly to an alternate runway. The Fire Department, having seen this, attempted to follow the aircraft. The pilot, unable to maintain altitude, ejected from the aircraft at approximately 500 feet. The unoccupied aircraft careened off the roof of a Bank One branch
building in the 5600 block of Bradbury Avenue in Wayne Township, crossed the street, hit an embankment, went airborne for approximately 25 feet and bellied into the front of the Ramada Inn. The aircraft shattered into many pieces, sending the cockpit and engine into the lobby and its wings to the top of the carport and upper floors of the hotel, simultaneously igniting its approximately 20,000 lbs. of fuel. Nine employees of the hotel were killed, all in the lobby and areas adjacent to the lobby. Four non-fire fighters were injured: an employee, a visitor to the hotel, a guest and the p i l o t . The visitor's injuries were critical. In addition, three fire fighters were injured. (See in Appendix 3.) Arriving within one minute of the aircraft's impact, the Airport Fire Department crash crew began a fire suppression and rescue operation which later proved to be the most important factor in minimizing deaths and injuries. STRUCTURES AND CODES Ramada Inn -- The Ramada Inn is a 7-story brick building with l65 rooms. It is located in an area called Park Fletcher within the Wayne Township jurisdiction, less than one half mile from the airport, and in close proximity to other hotels, and manufacturing and commercial
buildings. The Ramada has enjoyed a very good fire history and fire code compliance. It was built approximately 20 years ago under the I.C.B.O. code and is constructed entirely of fire resistant materials. The structure is steel reinforced concrete with masonry block walls between rooms, and floor-ceiling assemblies of Flexicore panels.
The exit corridors are at least one hour fire-rated. Each of the seven floors is served by two fire proof stairwells located on opposite ends of the building. The first floor is 200 ft. x 100 ft; the tower section (second through seventh floors) is 200 ft. x 40 ft. The interior finishes are primarily vinyl wall coverings and commercial grade wall-towall carpet. The first floor exiting is by way of corridors to the east and south
of the building and front lobby. The kitchen and banquet rooms exit directly to the outside on the south end of the building. The restaurant and cocktail lounge have exits directly to the outside at the north side of the building as well as through the lobby. The second through the seventh floors exit through a center interior corridor to a fire tower located at each end of the corridor. Bank One -- The Bank One building, located directly across from the front entrance of the Ramada Inn, is a one-story building, approximately 60 ft, x 60 ft. It is constructed of masonry material with a steel joist supported flat roof assembly. Both the bank and the Ramada Inn are on Bradbury Avenue, OCCUPANTS Approximately 130 guests were registered at the Ramada Inn the day of the fire plus an unknown number of employees. A hotel staff meeting was scheduled to take place on October 20, the day of the fire, but had been cancelled the day before. Therefore not as many employees were in the hotel at the time of the fire as might have been.
In July of 1987, following a mattress fire, the Wayne Township Fire Department had instructed the employees of this hotel in fire safety. This included procedures to follow regarding fire department notification and building evacuation. Thus, the employees had had recent fire safety training at the time of the fire; none were injured after the initial crash. FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT
The Ramada Inn has a six inch standpipe system with two 1 l/2 inch hose outlets located on every floor, one at each end of the corridor. Portable fire extinquishers are located in the same areas. The building is equipped with an automatic fire alarm system and smoke detectors in each room. It is not equipped with an automatic sprinkler system.

The water grid system servicing the area around the motel is considered very good by fire department authorities. Fire hydrants are located strategically in close proximity to the Ramada. There was plenty of water for fire fighting. FIRE DEPARTMENT EQUIPMENT AND TRAINING The Wayne Township Fire Department has five fire stations with approximately 350 volunteer fire fighters. The department operates ten engines, three trucks, five advanced life support units, and three basic life support units. It is one of the largest and best organized volunteer departments in the nation The Indianapolis Airport Fire Department has one station with 26 fire fighters, three large crash trucks, one rescue vehicle, and one squad vehicle. The Wayne Township Fire Department was provided disaster training at the airport in May 1987. In addition, approximately 45 fire fighters from Wayne Township had completed an 80 hour course taught by the Airport Fire Department in Aircraft Crash and Rescue. Included in the 45 were four who were district chiefs or higher. The current disaster plan had been discussed within the Department on Monday, October 19, the day before the fire, and a mock disaster drill was planned for October 31. Their thinking about handling an aircraft disaster was right up to date.
Decatur Township Fire Department, which provided mutual aid, also received training in May 1987 at the airport firehouse. It included training on resupply and vehicle operation. In addition, Indianapolis, which also provided mutual aid, had several fire fighters who had recently taken disaster management courses at the National Fire Academy.
THE FIRE The fire originated at 0917 in the front portion of the building. Upon impact, the cockpit and engine components of the A-7 aircraft went into the front lobby area. The A-7 is 48 feet long and 34 feet wide. Its wings severed from the main body of the aircraft, slamming into an area of the building just above the carport, blowing small pieces of metal through the windows of several rooms, and simultaneously igniting the remaining fuel stored in multiple areas of the aircraft. A giant fireball
momentarily engulfed the entire outside front of the hotel to about the
fourth floor. Within a minute after ignition, Airport Crash Truck 23 arrived on the scene and began attacking the fire with AFFF (foam) from the northwest corner of the building. Crash Truck 24 approached from the northeast corner of the building and joined Truck 23 in applying AFFF on the fire. Airport Unit 27 stopped on Bradbury Avenue, which was blocked by debris from the aircraft and from the damaged Bank One building. Its crew put on airpacks and entered the west side of the building looking for victims. Airport Unit 25 with two EMT's treated a burned employee who was coming through the east door. Another person, who had just stopped to use the phone at the hotel, was very badly burned and was found lying in the grass north of the carport. He was transported to the hospital by a private ambulance that happened to pass by. Information was obtained from one of the victims that people were trapped in the laundry room. Within approximately three minutes the main body of the fire was knocked down. The Airport Chief ordered that the Wayne Township Fire Department be advised he was setting up a command post in a parking lot across the street from the hotel. A major concern of the Airport Fire Chief at this time was whether the plane was carrying any armaments. The Airport Chief advised the Wayne Township Deputy Chief of this situation and radioed the Indianapolis Airport Authority to ask whether the aircraft had weapons aboard. An Indianapolis police officer was dispatched to the hospital to interview the pilot, who had survived a low-level bail-out and was conscious and in good condition after a quick medical check. It was learned from him that there were no armaments aboard, but the delayed information had already in turn delayed the search for victims. Wayne's Deputy Chief, after being notified of the situation, immediately ordered all rescue services to be put on standby. He requested equipment from the Indianapolis Fire Department and the Decatur Township Fire Department. He further ordered that roads leading to the hotel be sealed off and reserved for emergency use only. He also ordered the command bus to be brought to the scene. He established an equipment staging area on a roadway in close proximity to the hotel. Upon arrival of the Wayne Deputy Chief at the scene, he began directing the water resupply effort to the crash units. When the first Wayne rescue unit arrived, a search and rescue effort was organized and implemented. When Wayne's Fire Chief arrived at the scene, he placed his Deputy Chief at the command post while he began directing the fireground
suppression operation. Pumpers, aerial devices, and handlines were strategically deployed to all sides of the building. He sent personnel to the Bank One building to ascertain if rescue was needed, but the Bank One building had been vacated by its six employees and three customers, and there were no injuries or fire present. The Wayne Fire Chief, concerned that all hotel occupants had not been accounted for, coupled with the fact that he had incomplete information regarding the number of people in the hotel, ordered a second search of the hotel. Meanwhile, fire personnel were assisting a person from the south side area of the building who had jumped from a third floor room onto the first floor roof of the kitchen area. This person was transported to the hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation and possible fractures. The search of the hotel revealed that all the occupants had vacated the building. The best estimate of the number of registered guests was 130. However, this could not be confirmed at the time. Approximately 25 minutes into the fire incident, the fire was essentially out with the exception of some scattered hot spots. Concerned with uncertain estimates and incomplete accountability of the occupants, the Wayne Fire chief ordered another thorough search of the building. Assisted by the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office, a room to room search was implemented. This time, luggage tags and other paraphernalia that would identify the occupant was collected. Meanwhile, a second Indianapolis Ramada Inn was contacted to ascertain whether or not their registration computer system would be of help in this endeavor.
The second search turned up no occupants. As it turned out, they were part of the tremendous crowd that had gathered to watch the fire event. Only two guests were assisted from the hotel by the fire department during the whole incident. The others apparently left by designated exits. The guests and employees who were in the restaurant, banquet rooms, and kitchen left by exits opening directly to the outside from these areas. The local media was requested to broadcast announcements asking any hotel guests to call the American Red Cross and report their whereabouts. A total of 88 fire fighting personnel in 22 units from four
departments participated in the incident. Another 20 agencies and business assisted. OVERHAUL OPERATION
After the fire had been extinguished, the task of discovering and removing bodies was begun. Crews entering the lobby area began removing parts of the aircraft. They were amazed to discover the good condition of the main structural members of the building, given the intensity and amount of fire that was present in this area.
The aircraft cockpit and engine were the largest pieces of the aircraft found. Heavy equipment had to be summoned to remove the engine. Three bodies were found in an area behind the reception desk on the f i r s t f l o o r . Another body was found in an office behind the reception area. Two bodies were found in an office off the lobby area. Three bodie were found in the laundry room, located down the hall from the lobby. fatalities were later identified as employees of the hotel. A temporary morgue was setup at the northeast end of the parking lot.
Overhaul of the second, third, and fourth floors, north side, reveal numerous pieces of the aircraft in several rooms. The main fuselage was located in the center of the building on the second floor. A large section which was believed to have been a part of the right wing was found on the collapsed carport. It still contained some fuel and had to be lifted off by use of a crane. The nosewheel and strut were located in the middle of Bradbury Avenue. The left main gear was located in the southwest corner of the Bank One parking lot. The ejection seat and canopy were located behind the bank building, a few hundred feet away.

As stated earlier, there were nine fatalities. Four were burned beyond recognition and had to be identified by utilizing medical and dental records. The remaining five died essentially from smoke inhalation an some thermal burns. All the victims had high levels of carbon monoxide ranging form 4.1 percent to 76.8 percent. Those with the higher levels were located a distance away from the lobby. According to the Indianapolis
Medical Examiner, these high levels of CO indicate that the victims had a momentary awareness of what was happening.
Those injured by the fire included one female employee who was in the laundry room and escaped through the east end exit of the building. was transported to the hospital for treatment of burns to the face and hands. According to Chief Lamb, she said she had run through smoke to and exit with which she was familiar. All of those who stayed behind in the laundry room died. Another injury victim was a hotel guest, rescued from the kitchen roof on the south side. He was transported to the hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation and possible fractures.
A third victim received burns over 95 percent of his body. He had entered the hotel to use the telephone and was outside heading toward his vehicle parked next to the carport when the plane crashed. He was transported to the hospital. The pilot who parachuted from the plane landed a few blocks from the scene and was transported to the hospital for treatment of shock and possible muscle strains. One fire fighter from the Airport Fire Department was transported and admitted to the hospital for smoke inhalation. Two Wayne Township fire fighters were treated for smoke inhalation and released. The Chief of the Wayne Township Fire Department ordered a "debriefing session" for all personnel involved in the incident. A Wayne County psychiatrist/psychologist was asked to conduct the debriefing. He immediately began meeting with various groups and individuals to lend assistance to those who were having problems coping with the events. Thus far, the debriefing has proven to be invaluable in reducing the stress and psychological impact of the incident on the personnel involved in it. Some of the employees who were working in the Bank One branch the day of the incident are receiving psychological counseling by a local professional. DAMAGE ASSESSMENT
The fire completely gutted the lobby area and caused considerable heat and smoke damage to the east, center and south exit corridors. It also destroyed some vehicles outside the hotel. Amazingly, the main structural members of the building survived in excellent condition. This was due in part to rapid extingishment and the fact that the main steel support beam had been sprayed with what was believed to be an asbestos material. There was no horizontal spread of the fire except in those areas where doors to offices were left open. The corridor walls and doors did an excellent job in fire containment. The floor assembly, constructed of Flexicore concrete panels, withstood tremendous heat without any apparent structural failure. It is believed that this is due in part to the built-in cavities of the panels which may have distributed heat away from the source to a larger portion of the building. Eight rooms on the upper floors were considerably damaged as a result of fire penetration from the outside, including from the fireball after the crash. There was no fire penetration from the inside of the building, floor to floor. The double glass panels used in the windows held up very well. In many places the inner glass remained intact even though the outer pane broke; fire and smoke did not get into those rooms. (Double pane
windows also proved effective in the Pebble Beach Urban Wildlands Fire.1) Some exceptions, of course, were where pieces of aircraft knocked windows out. There was extensive smoke damage in the building. Separation walls, corridor walls, and doors also did exceptionally well in this incident. There were no noted failures of the components except where the force of flying debris in the area of impact caused failure. The roof of the Bank One building was struck by the plane's landing gear, which caused about 40 percent of the roof on the southwest side to collapse. There was no fire in this building.
The military aircraft, which was completely destroyed, was valued a $7.9 million. A final dollar loss estimate for the damage to Bank One and the Ramada Inn buildings was not available at the time this report was written, but was thought to be several hundred thousand dollars, and lower than expected considering that a plane crashed into the building with fuel on board. LESSONS LEARNED 1. Effective Disaster Plan -- The outcome of this fire illustrates the necessity of having a well-designed disaster plan and incident command system that is frequently practiced by all people and departments involved. The Wayne Township and Indianapolis Airport Fire Departments were well prepared for the type of incident that occurred.
2. Rapid Response -- The almost immediate fire suppression activities by the Indianapolis Airport Fire Department halted the spread of the fire, minimizing further building damage and most probably preventing further injuries and loss of life. The one minute response time was possible because they literally saw the crash coming. The first vehicles in also had clear access to get close to the fire. 1 Urban Wildlands Fire, Pebble Beach, California, USFA Fire Investigation Technical Report Series, U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, Maryland. 3. Pre-fire Planning -- Familiarization and pre-fire planning for selected high risk properties in one's jurisdiction is an essential part of any effective emergency plan. Emergency personnel must know in advance, in so far as possible, what they might expect during an emergency. This function must be an on-going program with continuous updating.
4. Leadership -- As with any emergency operation the successful
outcome will depend on the competency of its fireground commanders. A continuing in-service training program for both officers and firefighters is crucial. Disaster situations, above all, require strong, aggressive, and competent leaders, as were present at this incident.
5. Inter-jurisdiction Mutual Aid Cooperation -- As proven again in this incident, the immediate response of mutual aid departments without hesitation or confusion was a key factor that influenced the successful outcome. Four fire departments cooperated in this incident. In large disasters, additional resources often will be needed.
6. Construction and Inspection -- Fire department influence on the design and construction of buildings also is crucial. Good construction enhances favorable emergency outcomes. An ongoing, thorough, and effective plans review and building
inspection program must be continually employed. In this case the hotel's fire defenses were in good condition and did their job. The superb construction of the building played an important role in preventing the upward spread of the fire from floor to floor. The fireproof coating of steel members prevented warping or distortion, thereby preventing any structural failure. The Flexicore concrete panels probably helped dissipate the heat from the fire. The double pane thermal windows appeared to have prevented smoke and fire from entering several rooms.
7. Military Liaison -- A large part of the nation is exposed one way or another to hazardous military cargo. Immediate contact with the military must be established to enable emergency services to assess the risk when such cargo is involved in a fire. If the pilot had not been available for questioning, there would have been a long delay in
determining what was on the plane. As it was, there was some delay. Also, some incorrect information was received from Air Force personnel on the
scene as to the presence of armaments, according to Chief Lamb. It was difficult initially even to find out where the plane had come from to seek additional information on it. 8. Media Relations -- Good relations- with the media can be used to communicate with victims or survivors, and keep the media from adding to the problem faced. Early in the fire, Wayne's fire chief requested the media to broadcast an appeal to the hotel guests to report their whereabouts so they could be accounted for. The Chief also called several timely press conferences and gave press releases regarding the status of the incident. This allowed him to choose the times to deal with the press, instead of having them compete for his time and be a distraction.
The early arrival of proper fire fighting equipment and well trained officers and firefighters of both the Indianapolis Airport Fire Department and Wayne Township Fire Department were the main factors in the relatively successful outcome of this disaster. Their quick and efficient actions and strong, aggressive leadership minimized what might otherwise have been a major catastrophe. This outstanding effort was supported by the Indianapolis and Decatur Township Fire Departments, Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office and several other city, state, and federal agencies, which is testimony to the teamwork and esprit de corps displayed in this community.

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