HOUSTON, TX – As the Astrodome faces that seemingly inevitable wrecking ball, folks can’t seem to stop sharing fond memories of the place, but for KPFT radio show host Jay Lee, his most indelible Dome memory is much darker; It’s the day he saw someone die there.
Back in 1985, Canadian stuntman Karel Soucek was in town as part of the Thrill Show and Destruction Derby. Soucek was supposed to drop 180 feet in a barrel from the top of the Dome into a water tank, recreating his successful drop over Niagara Falls a few months earlier.
Lee was there that night, “At the top of the Astrodome, they had hoisted up what looked like a casket-shaped barrel.” Try as they might, they were unable to steady the barrel once it was hoisted up. The crowd grew restless after what seemed like an eternity of waiting.
“It was almost like they said, ‘Okay fine. We’re gonna do it,'” explains Lee, “and they let it go. And down it came, and it turned sideways and hit the edge of that tank like an egg and just kind of cracked and smashed.”
Soucek was rushed to Ben Taub, still alive at the time, but he died of his injuries before the Thrill Show was over.
For Jay Lee, that was the last time he was in the Astrodome, “Never really had a cause to go back.”
For more of Jay’s memories of that fateful day, check out this month’s issue of Houstonia.