fullscreen

JULY 28, 1945: A B-25 Mitchell bomber crashes into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, killing the three-man crew and eleven people in the building, which was lightly staffed on a Saturday. Pilot William Smith, a veteran of the air war over Europe, became disoriented in heavy fog over Manhattan, sending his plane directly towards the 102-story Empire tower, then the tallest building in the world. The resulting fire trapped hundreds of workers and nearly killed 19-year-old elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver when one of the aircraft’s engines severed key cables holding the car in which she was working; she plummeted 79 stories but survived. A lawsuit filed by some survivors led to the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946.