On 28th July, 1945, A B-25 Mitchell Bomber that was on a routine personnel transport mission to Newark Airport from Bedford Army Air Field requested for clearance to land. The pilot, William Franklin Smith, Jr. was advised of zero visibility, however, he proceeded anyway and was soon disoriented because of the dense fog and instead of taking a left after crossing the Chrysler building, took a right.
On that fateful day at 0940 hours, the aircraft made impact with the north side of the Empire State Building between the 78th and 80th floor. It left an 18x20ft hole in the building where National Catholic Welfare Council offices were located. One of the engines went through the South side, opposite to the impact, and flew till the next block where it dropped 900 ft finally landing on the roof of a nearby building and ignited a fire that consumed a penthouse art studio.
The other engine along with part of the landing gear went down an elevator shaft. The fire that resulted was taken care of in 40 minutes and till date is the only fire that erupted at such a height and was brought under control. A total of 14 people lost their lives that day; bomber Smith had Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich and Albert Perna, a Navy aviation machinist’s fellow who was hitching a ride and a total of 11 others in the building. Smith was located two days later when the search crew found his dead body that had fallen to the bottom via an elevator shaft.
Betty Lou Oliver, elevator operator was injured and the rescue team decided to transport her using an elevator that featured weakened cables. Unaware of the fact, they used the elevator and the cable broke and Betty survived a plunge of 75 stories. This rendered her the Guinness World Record for the highest survived elevator fall.
Despite the tragic loss of life and other incurred damages, the building was open for business the next Monday on multiple floors. A missing stone in the façade of the building serves as a memento where the aircraft made impact with the building.