How Many People Died Building the Empire State Building?

February 13, 2024

The construction of the Empire State Building was a tremendous undertaking. This 102-story skyscraper, which was completed in 1930 after a breakneck 13 month construction period, required unprecedented engineering feats and a massive workforce. Given the grueling work conditions and extreme risks involved, it’s amazing that the death toll was so low compared to modern projects.

To put things into perspective, there were 60 deaths during the construction of the World Trade Center forty years later. The fact that the Empire State Building was built with relatively few deaths is a testament to the novelty of fast-track construction methods and the accelerated timeframe.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any accidents and fatalities. In fact, five people died during the construction of the Empire State Building. Rumors and unsubstantiated reports placed the death toll higher but that’s not true.

One of the notable Empire State Building related deaths occurred when an Army B-25 bomber flew into the building after being disoriented by fog. The pilot made a tragic mistake by continuing toward La Guardia Airport instead of turning back towards Midtown Manhattan. As a result, the plane plowed into the 78th and 79th floors, causing the crash to trigger a fire that killed the pilot and two crewmen.

There are a few other notable Empire State Building related deaths. The first was a suicide attempt that earned 29 year-old Bronx resident Elvita Adams the nickname “Lucky One.” After losing her job, she decided to take her life by jumping from the 86th floor observation deck. However, she survived her fall thanks to a strong gust of wind that blew her back onto the setback on the 85th floor.

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