It has been more than 65 years since a devastating Mount Oldfield mudslide in Prince Rupert claimed the lives of seven people. Now, the sole survivor, dubbed “The Miracle Baby,” who was rescued from the rubble, has died.
Selma Beilby, nee Murray, was 66 years old when she died peacefully on Nov. 23.
She became known as the miracle baby on Nov. 22, 1957 when at just 18 months old was the only survivor after three houses were swept off their foundations under more than 1,000 tonnes of rock and mud.
The Prince Rupert Daily News reported on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy that in the 18 hours leading up to the noon-hour slide, 3.9 inches of rain had fallen with the accompaniment of gusting winds — a combination that eventually brought trees, mud and rocks down the hillside in what witness Jack Krug described “as [if] the whole mountain was moving”.
In less than six minutes, the houses were swept more than 200 feet off their foundations down the slope, with mud sliding down the hill to Wantage Road.
In total, seven people died, including Beilby’s parents, John and Merle Murray, as well as her five-month-old brother James. Newlyweds Tom and June Perry, fisherman John Vandal and George Henderson were also killed in the other two homes that were swept away.
In 1977, the Regina Leader-Post reported that Beilby was saved by a truck driver, Lee Intermela, who was living in Nanaimo at the time. Intermela heard Selma’s cries and saw a little hand in the rubble. She was found on her back, tangled in the wreckage of the house. Her baby brother’s body was found only a few yards away, buried under debris.
The little girl was adopted by family members immediately after the incident and grew up in Flin Flon, Man. At the age of 18, she returned to Prince Rupert to meet the man who saved her.
“It is still vivid in my mind. It was a real miracle that she lived through it,” the truck driver said back then in an interview about meeting the girl he saved.
“I remember hurrying to get her out of the slide because it had clogged up the creek and the water was already up to her shoulders.”
Beilby was too young to remember what happened that day.
“All I know is what I have seen in the clippings I have in a scrapbook,” she said at the time.
Beilby went on to be an educational assistant and had two sons and three grandchildren of her own.
With files from The Prince Rupert Daily news and Regina-Leader Post.