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Rescue of Jessica McClure

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Jessica McClure
McClure in 1989
Jessica McClure

(1986-03-26) March 26, 1986 (age 38)
Other namesJessica McClure Morales
Known forFalling into a well at 18 months
Daniel Morales
(m. 2006)

Jessica McClure Morales (born March 26, 1986; widely known as "Baby Jessica" in 1987[1]) fell into a well in her aunt's backyard in Midland, Texas, on October 14, 1987, at the age of 18 months.

Over the next 56 hours, rescuers worked to free her from the 8 in (20 cm) well casing, about 22 ft (7 m) below grade.[1][2]

The story garnered worldwide attention. A 1989 ABC television movie was made about the events: Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure.


The incident occurred in Midland, Texas, where firemen and police developed a plan to drill a parallel shaft to the well where Jessica was lodged—and drill another horizontal cross-tunnel to rescue her. Enlisting the help of local oil drillers, officials hoped to free McClure quickly. But they then discovered that the well was surrounded by rock. The rescuers' jackhammers were also inadequate, as they were designed for downward rather than horizontal drilling.

A mining engineer eventually arrived to help supervise and coordinate the rescue effort, and a relatively new technology, waterjet cutting, was ultimately used to cut through the rock.[3][4]

Forty-five hours after Jessica fell into the well, the adjacent shaft and cross-tunnel were complete. During the drilling, rescuers could hear Jessica singing "Winnie the Pooh."[5]

A roofing contractor, Ron Short, volunteered to go down the shaft. He had been born without collarbones and could collapse his shoulders to work in tight confines. The team considered his offer,[6][7][8] but paramedic Robert O'Donnell was ultimately able to inch his way into the tunnel, wrestle Jessica free from her position pinned inside the well with one leg above her forehead—and hand her to a fellow paramedic, who carried her up to safety before giving her to another paramedic who carried her to a waiting ambulance.

Media coverage[edit]

CNN covered the rescue effort.

Then-President Ronald Reagan said, "Everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on."

Throughout the incident, local media outlet KMID-TV received calls from news organizations and private individuals globally, seeking the latest information.

In 1988, McClure and her parents appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to talk about the incident.

A photograph of McClure's rescue by Scott Shaw of the Odessa American received the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.[9]

ABC made a television movie of the story in 1989, Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure, starring Beau Bridges and Patty Duke and featuring many participants from the actual rescue as extras.

On May 30, 2007, USA Today ranked McClure number 22 on its list of "25 lives of indelible impact".[10]


President George H. W. Bush meeting McClure at the White House in 1989

Following McClure's rescue on October 16, 1987, doctors feared they would have to amputate Jessica's foot due to damage from loss of blood flow sustained from her leg being elevated above her head for the 58 and a half hours she was stuck in the well. They decided to try hyperbaric therapy in an attempt to avoid full amputation.[11] In the end, surgeons only had to amputate a toe due to gangrene caused by loss of circulation while she was in the well. Jessica carries a scar on her forehead where her head rubbed against the well casing and, despite the incident and 15 subsequent related surgeries, retains no first-hand memory of the events.[12] Her parents divorced in 1990.[13]

Paramedic Robert O'Donnell (August 27, 1957 – April 27, 1995) developed post-traumatic stress disorder after the rescue. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.[13]

In May 2004, McClure graduated from Greenwood High School, in a small community near Midland. On January 28, 2006, she married Daniel Morales at the Church of Christ in Notrees, Texas, about 40 mi (60 km) from Midland. They met at a day care center where she worked with his sister.[14] They have two children, a son born in 2007 and a daughter born in 2009.[15]

When McClure turned 25 on March 26, 2011, she received a trust fund, composed of donations from around the world, which she discussed using for her children's college and which she used to purchase her home, less than 2 mi (3 km) from the well into which she fell.[12] However, she also indicated that a great deal of the fund was lost in the 2008 stock market crash.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Malootty, the 1990 Indian Malayalam-language movie starring Jayaram, was based on the incident.[17]
  • The Simpsons referenced the incident with an episode about Bart Simpson falling and becoming stuck inside a well.[18]
  • In Scary Movie 3, during a scene which parodies events from The Ring (2002), the character Brenda references the rescue when she exclaims, "Cindy the news is on! Another little white girl done fell down a well". She then proceeds to mock the national attention brought to the event when she complains that "50 black people get their asses beat by the police every day, but the whole world gotta stop for one little whitey down the hole".
  • In 2010, blues musician Charlie Musselwhite released an album titled The Well. In the title song, he credits McClure's ordeal for inspiring him to quit drinking.[19]
  • In 2010, her story was featured satirically in the Saturday Night Live sketch "What Up With That."[20]
  • In 2017, an episode of ABC's Modern Family, titled "Heavy Is the Head", Cam (Eric Stonestreet) has great difficulty getting an MRI scan. He later attributes his fear to being stuck in a well as a teenager on the same day as Baby Jessica.[21]

See also[edit]

  • Floyd Collins, a "man trapped in cave" that received high media attention in 1925
  • 2010 Copiapó mining accident, cave-in and miner rescue at a mine in Atacama Region (Chile) where 33 miners were rescued
  • Tham Luang cave rescue, where 12 children and a coach were rescued from a cave in Thailand in 2018
  • Kathy Fiscus, a three-year-old American girl who died after falling into a well in 1949
  • Alfredo Rampi, a six-year-old Italian boy who died after falling into a well in 1981
  • Julen Roselló, a two-year-old Spanish toddler who died after falling into a well in 2019
  • Rayan Oram, a five-year-old Moroccan boy who died after falling into a well in 2022
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo, a children's book about a Chinese boy who fell into a well


  1. ^ a b "30 years ago: Rescue of 'Baby Jessica' from the well". Abc13,com. October 14, 2016.
  2. ^ "Jessica McClure, an 18-month-old girl, is saved after 58 long hours trapped in a well in 1987". NY Daily News. October 15, 2015.
  3. ^ Business Week. Bloomberg L.P. 1989.
  4. ^ National Science Foundation (U.S.) (1987). Annual report for fiscal year ... The Foundation.
  5. ^ Higgins, Darla (May 31, 2017). "Baby Jessica 30 Years Later: 'My Life Is a Miracle'". People.com. Retrieved October 15, 2017. Television viewers watched as hundreds of paramedics, rescuers, drilling experts and contractors feverishly worked to save the baby's life. Meanwhile, they were reassured when they heard Jessica singing "Winnie the Pooh" from deep in the well. As long as she was singing, she was still alive.
  6. ^ Kennedy, J. Michael (October 17, 1987). "Jessica Makes It to Safety – After 58 1/2 Hours". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  7. ^ Scott, Ronald W. (November 1988). "Cleidocranial Dysplasia: An Enigma Among Anomalies". The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 10 (5): 184–88. doi:10.2519/jospt.1988.10.5.184. ISSN 0190-6011. PMID 18796963.
  8. ^ "Home - News, Entertainment, World Events Video". NBCUniversal Archives. Archived from the original on August 26, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  9. ^ "1988 Winners and Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Columbia University. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  10. ^ Koch, Wendy (May 29, 2007). "Lives of Indelible Impact". USA Today. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  11. ^ Herman, Ken (October 18, 1987). "DOCTORS OPERATE ON FOOT OF GIRL FREED FROM WELL". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 16, 2022.
  12. ^ a b Blaney, Betsy (March 25, 2011). "Baby Jessica turns 25, gains access to trust fund". Xfinity News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 26, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Belkin, Lisa (July 23, 1995). "Death on the CNN Curve". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  14. ^ Celizic, Mike (November 6, 2007). "Baby Jessica 20 Years Later". MSNBC. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  15. ^ Helling, Steve (October 16, 2017). "Baby Jessica On the 30 Year Anniversary of Her Rescue from a Well: Her Life as a Wife and Mom". People.
  16. ^ Hlavaty, Craig (March 10, 2017). "Jessica McClure Morales, now 30, says most of 1987 trust fund lost in 2008 market crash". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2022.
  17. ^ "Row over Kerala State Films Award – Times of India". The Times of India.
  18. ^ MacFarlane, Kit (February 14, 2010). "The Simpsons, "Radio Bart" Part 2: "Ace in the Hole" and Jessica McClure". Pop Matters. Retrieved October 13, 2021.
  19. ^ Kot, Greg (September 28, 2010). "How 'Baby Jessica' Saved Blues Great Charlie Musselwhite". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  20. ^ "What Up With That?: Paul Rudd & Frank Rich – SNL". YouTube. September 23, 2013. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  21. ^ "Cam's Bitter Rivalry With Baby Jessica on 'Modern Family'". Sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved May 8, 2021.

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