The invention of the elevator has made our lives more convenient, and it has changed the way that we construct buildings today. Before the elevator was invented, skyscrapers couldn’t exist. Nobody in their right mind would want to climb 50 or 60 flights of stairs. When the elevator was invented, skyscrapers came to be. For the most part, elevators are safe. However, there have been accidents over the years that make some people terrified of getting on an elevator.
An accident occurred in May 1903 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There was a party being held in a building, and it was expected to span over two floors. Hundreds of people were attending the party, and for some, it was a tragic night. A group of 17 passengers got on the elevator. They were taking it up to the sixth floor, which was the main party floor. When the elevator reached the sixth floor, something went terribly wrong.
In seconds, it dropped over 64-feet. It fell to the bottom floor, and then the cable snapped and fell on top of the crashed elevator. The accident was discovered quickly, and rescue workers arrived to save the people who were trapped in the elevator. Of the 17 people on board, 13 survived the free fall, one of them was a toddler. The four who didn’t make it was so severely injured that the authorities had trouble identifying them. The cause of the accident was determined to be passenger overload. The elevator was designed for a capacity of 13 people, and there were 17 onboard that night.
In July 1945, a woman named Betty Lou Oliver arrived for work at the Empire State Building, where she worked as a lift supervisor. Around the same time, a military aircraft was traveling from Massachusetts to Queens, New York. As the plane approached New York, the fog got very thick, causing the pilot to lose his bearings. It crashed into the 80th floor of the Empire State Building. When the plane crashed into the building, Betty Lou was working on the 75th floor.
The impact knocked her off her feet, and she broke several bones. She was also severely burned from the leaking aircraft fuel. Not knowing that the elevator was damaged, Betty Lou got into an elevator in hopes of saving herself. The elevator fell over 800-feet to the basement, but Betty Lou survived. The elevator landed on a massive pile of broken cables that broke her fall. People on the ground floor helped her out of the elevator, and to this day, she holds the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall.
In December 1946, 40 years after the incident in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 12 women got on an elevator. They were employees at a textile factory called the American Woolen Company, which was located in Maine. The women got in the elevator on the third floor, and they joined Blanche Foss, the operator. Before the women got on, she noticed a troubling sound. The sounds that she was hearing was the cable and other equipment that broke over the carriage. Blanche managed to get out of the car before it plummeted 30-feet, but the women who worked at the factory weren’t as lucky. The biggest issue for the women was the falling cable. It smashed through the wooden ceiling, killing two of the women. The rest of the women escaped with their lives, but they were all severely injured.
Free Fall Tip
If you find yourself in the terrifying situation of an elevator free-falling, there are ways you can save yourself. If the cable in the elevator you’re in suddenly breaks, doing this could save your life. And if you are in a hotel and you have luggage, it could save your life. Your luggage can be a cushion between your and the full force of the landing.
Many people believe that if you jump at the right time during the free fall, you can keep yourself from getting injured when the elevator lands. This is not true. There is no way of planning your jump since you cannot see through the metal floor. Also, jumping might decrease the speed by about two-miles-per-hour, which isn’t enough to save your life. Also, jumping up during a free fall could result in you hitting your head on the way down, resulting in a deadly injury.
A Second Good Tip
If you aren’t carrying your luggage, the best thing that you can do if the elevator is falling is lie down on your back. When you are lying flat, your body can sustain the fall much easier than if you were standing up. It might be hard to think quickly about lying down, but it is essential. It could essentially save your life.