B-25 Crashed Into NYC Skyscraper As Woman Defied Death…Twice
For Those Of You Who Didn’t Know.
This is one of those stories every World War II aviation buff should know. We were surprised while having conversations with others that most people have no idea that this happened. A story of a famous WWII bomber colliding with the tallest building in the world at the time is not common knowledge?
To remedy that, we’ve decided to revive the story so you guys can share it and spread the word. We also found many original pictures of the incident as well as the newsreel that followed it.
On July 28th, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell was performing a routine transport mission from the Bedford Army Air Field to Newark Airport. On board were the pilot, William Franklin Smith Jr., Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich and Albert Perna, a civilian hitching a ride. They would never make it to their destination.
It was extremely foggy that day and visibility was close to zero. The pilot was advised against landing until it was clear, but he ignored the warning, flying blind into downtown Manhattan. Making the crucial mistake of taking a right instead of a left next to the Chrysler Building, the plane headed straight for the north side of the Empire State building without Smith being able to see it.
The plane struck the building between the 78th and 80th floor at 9:40 am. The wings sheared off and the fuselage created a 18 by 20 foot hole in the building, exiting out of the other side and falling on top of another building.
Fourteen people lost their lives that day including the crew, while many others were inured. Although heart wrenching, there is one miracle story that emerged from this. The story of 19 year old Betty Lou Oliver.
“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”.-Betty Lou Oliver
Found by emergency crews in that condition, they decided to put her in another elevator and send her down as opposed to carrying her down the stairs. This elevator had damaged cables as a result of the crash however, and plummeted 80 floors down to the basement with her in it.
It definitely wasn’t Betty Lou’s day to depart this earth however. The severed cables bunched up below the falling elevator, creating a spring like effect when she hit the bottom floor. Coupled with the compressed air that formed under the plunging elevator, she managed to survive the fall and make a full recovery.
The news footage of that day reveals some additional details of the incident as well. Take a listen.