76 years ago on July 28th, 1945
A U.S. Army B-25 bomber hits the Empire State Building, killing the three crew members and 11 people in the building
The pilot became disoriented in thick fog as he was flying from Bedford, Massachusetts to Newark, NJ, and hit at the 78th and 79th floors on the north side of the Empire State Building around 9:45am.
Thankfully, most of the wreckage remained in the building or on lower roofs and the resulting fire was quickly extinguished. One of the plane's engines traveled completely through the building, exiting the south face with enough momentum to crash down on the roof of 10 East 33rd Street.
Although 11 people died in the building and 26 were injured, there were fewer people in the building overall since the impact happened on a Saturday. Workers in the building at the time described the impact as earthquake-like, with the building swaying and a bright flash as the plane hit.
At the time of the crash, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world.
The crash also severed the cables to some of the building's elevators, and caused what would become the longest fall ever survived in an elevator! Betty Lou Oliver was already injured inside the building, but was then loaded into a damaged elevator. The safety cables snapped and the elevator fell 75 stories, being slowed down by debris and the coils of wire at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Rescuers dug through debris and cut away mangled metal to find Betty alive, but with serious injuries and broken bones.
Hear an NPR interview with some surviving eyewitnesses to the crash.
A similar crash would take place 10 months later when another military plane would become disoriented in heavy fog and hit 40 Wall Street at the 58th floor.