This Woman Cheated Death Twice on the Same Day After a 1945 Disaster
This Woman Cheated Death Twice on the Same Day After a 1945 Disaster

This Woman Cheated Death Twice on the Same Day After a 1945 Disaster

Patrick Lynch - October 11, 2017


This Woman Cheated Death Twice on the Same Day After a 1945 Disaster
Betty Lou Oliver recovering from the accident – World War Wings

The Aftermath

Betty suffered further serious injuries from her fall and was eventually cut from the mangled wreckage. It took her eight months to recover fully and just to make matters worse, July 28 was supposed to be her last day on the job. The story truly is like something from a clichéd Hollywood script. Just five months later while still recovering, Betty returned to the scene with an elevator inspector who was astonished at her ‘guts’ for agreeing to travel in an elevator after her ordeal.

As well as claiming the lives of 14 people, the Empire State Building crash caused one million dollars worth of damage ($13 million today) including the destruction of a nearby penthouse art studio. The carnage would have been much worse had the firemen not reacted so quickly. Incredibly, they extinguished the fire in just 40 minutes. It is still the biggest major fire to have ever been brought under control at such a height. Although the crash shocked the nation, the bombing of Hiroshima a week later garnered most of the media’s spotlight.

Despite the crash and subsequent fire, which happened on Saturday, the building was open for business on numerous floors on Monday; mainly because the Empire State Building did not suffer any structural damage. Eight months later, the U.S. Government offered money to the families of the victims. While some accepted it and moved on, the others filed a lawsuit that ultimately led to the implementation of the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946.

Betty Lou’s Life

Betty was married at the time of the accident, and once she recovered eight months later, she returned to Fort Smith in Arizona to live with her husband, Oscar Lee. Despite suffering horrific injuries, we’re not aware if it had any long-term physical or psychological injuries because Betty stayed off the radar completely once she went back to Arizona.

What we know is that she had three children with Oscar Lee and a total of seven grandchildren. Her husband died in 1986, and according to her obituary, Betty died in Fort Smith, Arizona on November 24, 1999. She was 74 years of age.

The events of the Empire State Building crash helped inspire the beginning of Halle Ephron’s novel; There Was an Old Woman. While the book is entirely fictional, Ephron does mention the crash. The book’s heroine, Evie Ferrante, lived in Manhattan in 1945 and at the beginning of the book; she is working in the sub-sub-basement of the Empire State Building trying to retrieve the engine of a B-25 bomber that slammed into a skyscraper.