On this day in 1945:
Betty Lou Oliver famously called the “Elevator girl” cheated death twice when she survived a 75 storey drop after a US bomber plane crashed into the Empire State Building. She set a world record for the longest survived elevator fall.
Betty Lou worked as a lift supervisor at the Empire State Building when it was disastrously struck by a bomber plane in 1945. She was working on the 80th floor when the B-25 Mitchell Bomber slammed into its side killing at least 14 people.
Betty Lou was inside the elevator cab when the plane struck, breaking the supporting cables to catapult her out of the cab. It is amazing that she survived this first part as she suffered severe burns as well as horrifically, a broken pelvis, back and neck.
She recalled to the press at the time: “I had just started down from the 80th floor, and then there was a noise above me and then a great block of machinery came through the top of my car.” She was treated by first-aid workers and then sent down in another lift.
What happened next was a miracle. The cables on the elevator had been weakened and snapped from the weight of the lift to catapult the cab into a downward spiral at neck-breaking speed what should have been certain death.
Yet again and most incredibly, she managed to survive the absolutely terrifying ordeal. Investigators believed her extremely lucky escape was possible because a thousand feet of cable had fallen to the bottom first, therefore softening the impact.
The rapid compression of air is also believed to have helped provide a cushion on landing. Five months after her trauma, brave Betty Lou amazingly re-visited the building with an elevator inspector, who praised her ‘guts’ in riding the lift to the top.