How Elvita Adams Jumped Off a Building and Survived

By: Alyssa Miller | Last updated: Mar 21, 2024

Some of the most iconic landmarks tend to have dark stories surrounding them, especially in New York City. The city that never sleeps has had many people take their own lives by plummeting toward the Earth.

While it was falsely reported that many people from Wall Street had jumped to their deaths on Black Thursday, the day the New York Stock Exchange went into free fall in 1929, one jump from the Empire State Building made headlines everywhere, but not for what you think.

Elvita Adams Jumps Off the Empire State Building

Elvita Adams, a 29-year-old single mother, miraculously survived her attempt to jump from the Empire State Building. After leaping from the 86th-floor observation deck on Dec. 2, 1979, she landed on a three-foot ledge about 20 feet below.

A group of people on the outdoor viewing platform of the Empire State building looking out over New York circa 1940.

Source: FPG/Getty Images

According to The New York Times, the authorities at the building theorized that strong wind gusts saved the life of Elvita Adams.


Who Is Elvita Adams? 

History Defined states that the Bronx resident was going through a depressive episode after losing her job, and housing insecurities were putting increasing pressure on the single mom. Her $100 welfare checks were not enough to lift the burdens of the extreme difficulties Adams faced.

Elvita Adams in the hospital next to an image of the Empire State Building

Source: All That's Interesting/YouTube

On the brink of desperation and pushed by depression, Adams found herself standing at the observation deck of the Empire State Building, looking down at the possibility of no future.

Elvita Adams Survived Her Jump

Although no one saw Adams climb the fence and jump, a gust of wind pushed the woman onto a ledge of the 85th floor, leaving her alive but with a broken hip. George Riece, a night supervisor at the Empire State Building, told The New York Times that a guard heard calls for help around 8:15 p.m.

Photo shows a view of the city of New York and the top of the Empire State Building.

Source: Getty Images

The guard found Adams lying on the 85th-floor ledge of the building and pulled her in. Adams was admitted to the Bellevue Hospital and was put under psychiatric watch after treatment for her fractured hip.

Is Elvita Adams Still Alive in 2023?

Not much is known about Elvita Adams today. Adams lived a private life after her brief brush with death, making it difficult for anyone to keep track of the first person to survive jumping off the Empire State Building.

The observation deck at the Empire State Building

Source: Michelle R. Le/Flickr

Some believe that Adams became a standup comedian after her attempt, but no one can say for sure. No news about Elvita Adams’ obituary has been reported, so we can assume that the 73-year-old Elvita Adams today is alive.

Why Do People at the Empire State Building Jump? 

Located at West 34th Street in Manhattan, New York, the Empire State Building is one of the most recognized landmarks in New York City. It was once known as the highest building in the city, reaching 1,454 feet. A dark and wild history lingers in the building.

The inside of the Empire State Building


From plane crashes to successful and failed jumping attempts, the building has unfortunately become a popular location for people who are looking to end their lives.


How Many People Died Building the Empire State Building?

There is a toll that comes with constructing awe-stunning projects. The Empire State Building took five workers’ lives in slip-and-fall or struck-by accidents over its 13 months (1929–1930) of construction, according to official records.

Fireman and rescue workers carry the body of a casualty out of the Empire State Building after a B-25 bomber crashed into the 78th floor of the structure, causing a terrific explosion and a four-alarm fire. The number of dead and injured has not yet been estimated. in addition to those injured at the site of the crash, many persons suffered serious cuts and bruises as debris showered down into the crowded streets below the world's tallest building.

Source: Getty Images

For comparison, the 1973 build of the World Trade Center, which had the same amount of workers as the Empire State Building, was a dozen times deadlier, with 60 fatalities.


Others Who Have Jumped Off the Empire State Building? 

At least 36 people have jumped off the Empire State Building since the iconic landmark was constructed on March 17, 1930. The first record of a man jumping off the building was on April 7, 1931, before the project was completed.

Man working on the Empire State Building

Source: Jim Trodel/Flickr

A construction worker who had been laid off jumped off the building and fell through the open elevator shaft.


The First Death After the Empire State Building Opened 

The first death happened in February 1935. Irma P. Eberhardt jumped from the observatory floor of the Empire State Building, falling 1,029 feet before she landed on a marquee sign. According to Daily News, the 27-year-old leaped to her death after she and her partner got into a fight.

New York Empire State Building

Source: Canva

The next death would happen on Dec. 16, 1943. William Lloyd Rambo jumped to his death, landing among the Christmas shoppers on the sidewalk below.


Evelyn McHale’s Famous Death 

Perhaps one of the most famous incidents of someone jumping off a building was Evelyn McHale. The 23-year-old plunged off the building in 1947. After jumping from the 86th-floor observation deck, the young woman adorned in petals and gloves leapt to her death.

Empire State Building in black and white

Source: Canva

Adams landed on top of a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. One look at the photo taken by photography student Robert Wiles and published by LIFE would make you think Adams was sleeping, with her ankles crossed and body perfectly still. However, the crushed car beneath her tells another story.


Other Empire State Building Deaths

There have been plenty of other deaths to plague the Empire State Building. On July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the side of the building. The crash was caused by the U.S. Army Air Forces plane flying in a thick layer of fog.

Empire State Building plane crash

Source: Public Domain/Picryl

The crash killed 14 people: three crewmen in the B-25 and 11 people in the building. A total of 24 others were injured by the plane crash.


The Tower of Terror

On Jan. 24, 2000, an elevator in the building started to free-fall 40 stories. The elevator fell from the 44th floor to the fourth floor, where the narrowed elevator shaft provided a second safety system if the cable snapped.

Part of the elevator lobby of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan (borough) in New York City.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The 40-floor fall should have caused more damage than it did. Luckily, the two passengers in the elevator were only slightly injured.