An Unlucky Break
At the moment that Captain Smith crashed the plane into the Empire State Building, Betty Lou Oliver was working on the 80th floor as an elevator attendant. The crash caused her to be thrown out of her vehicle, and as well as suffering from severe burns, Betty had a broken pelvis, back, and neck. They were terrible injuries, but it was clear that Betty would survive as first aid workers helped her and placed her on an elevator to the ground floor. Soon, she would be driven to the hospital for proper treatment.
Meanwhile, Willig was still in shock over what happened on the 79th floor. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, she was certain it was all over for everyone on the floor. Speaking years later, Willig described it as a âsmall universe’ as it was akin to being stuck on a small island surrounded by fire. While someone had managed to open a window and Willig used a handkerchief to protect her from the smoke, several women passed out from the fumes.
At some point, a man named Paul Dearing jumped as he panicked in the aftermath of the fire. Willig was so sure that her time on Earth was over that she took the rings off her fingers and threw them out of the window. Fortunately, her fears were groundless because firemen arrived on the scene and rescued all the survivors. Pall later admitted that she had no idea what happened 23 floors up until she was out of the building and saw the tail of a B-25 bomber sticking out of the building. It appeared as if the worst was over and it was; except for Betty Lou Oliver.
A Sudden Crash
The rescuers had placed Betty on a stretcher and put her in an elevator on the 79th floor. Unfortunately, they didn’t know that the cables on the elevator had been weakened in the crash. As soon as they placed Betty on the elevator, the cables snapped, and Betty started to hurtle down towards the bottom of the elevator shaft. Her entire life must surely have passed before her eyes as the elevator rocketed towards the ground.
In a few seconds, she would be dead at just 20 years of age; with no opportunity to achieve any of her goals in life nor would she see her husband again. Remarkably, Betty survived her second ordeal of the day with an extraordinary amount of luck by all accounts. The elevator plunged a total of 75 stories, approximately 1,000 feet, so in reality, Betty shouldn’t have survived.
As it transpired, the thousand feet of elevator cable had broken away and fallen to the bottom of the shaft before Betty landed. By the time she landed, the cable was there to provide a softer landing surface. The rapid compression of air also added to the cushion. Although there are more fun ways to end up in the Guinness Book of Records, Betty’s name was added for the unlikely feat of longest survived elevator fall; a record she still holds today. It was an incredible escape but what became of Betty Lou Oliver?