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 the miracle baby in 1957 as the 18-month-old only survivor after three houses were swept off their foundations under more than 1,000 tons of rock and mud crushed the dwellings.
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 on Nov. 22, 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 just 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, including Beilby’s parents, John and Merle Murray, as well as her five-month-old brother James died. Additionally, newlyweds Tom and June Perry, fisherman John Vandal and George Henderson were killed in the other two homes, which were swept away.
The little girl was adopted by family members immediately after the incident and grew up in Flin Flon, Manitoba. At the age of 18, she returned to Prince Rupert to meet the man who saved her.
At the time, she said in a media interview, “I don’t remember anything about it. All I know is what I have seen in the clippings I have in a scrapbook.”
The Regina Leader-Post in 1977 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.
“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.”
The “Miracle Baby” grew up to be an educational assistant and had two sons and three grandchildren of her own. Selma Murray died on Nov. 23 with her family at her side.
With files from The Prince Rupert Daily news and Regina-Leader Post.