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How To Survive A Plane Crash And A Free Fall Through An Elevator Shaft: The Betty Lou Oliver Story

Updated April 4, 2018 8.1k views10 items

A lot of people have phobias of getting on and off elevators, but accidents and injuries from elevator travel remain a rare phenomenon. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver had the unfortunate experience of enduring such an accident in the Empire State Building, but remarkably survived a 75 story fall. What makes her story even more fascinating? Her accident occurred on the same day a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building.

The 1945 Empire State Building B-25 crash occurred when a plane collided with the Empire State Building. Betty Lou Oliver was only a floor away from the impact. She was lucky to survive this first accident, which makes it remarkable that she survived the subsequent elevator fall. A number of nearly miraculous conditions allowed Oliver to live. Despite enduring two life threatening accidents in a single day, Oliver went on to live a full and happy life. 

  • The Elevator Was Completely Dismantled In The Crash

    Part of the reason Oliver’s survival is so captivating is the severity of the accident. The elevator was completely destroyed in the crash. All the cables securing the elevator snapped just before it fell, causing it to free fall downward towards the basement. There was no way to stop the fall once it began.

  • Oliver Was Working As An Elevator Operator When The Crash Occurred

    While not a well-known historical event, the 1945 B-25 crash in New York City dominated headlines at the time. New Yorkers were naturally terrified when Smith’s plane collided with the Empire State Building. At the time, this was the tallest building in the world.

    At the time, Betty Lou Oliver was a 19-year-old elevator operator at the Empire State Building.

  • The Plane Crash Resulted In The Federal Tort Claims Act Of 1946

    The government offered money to family members of the victims eight months after the accident occurred. While some families accepted, not everyone was willing to let the incident go. A lawsuit was initiated by some victims’ family members that ultimately resulted in the passing of the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946. This granted United States citizens the right to sue the federal government.

  • After Five Months, Oliver Again Braved The Elevator

    After Five Months, Oliver Agai is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list How To Survive A Plane Crash And A Free Fall Through An Elevator Shaft: The Betty Lou Oliver Story
    Photo: CNN / YouTube

    After enduring two life threatening accidents at work in a single day, most people might start sending their resume elsewhere. This was not the case for Betty Lou Oliver. After five months of recovery, Oliver returned to work and rode the elevator with an inspector. The inspector complimented Oliver on her guts when she got back on the machine that nearly killed her.

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