Rescue of Jessica McClure

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Jessica McClure
President George H.W. Bush holds Jessica McClure in the Roosevelt Room at the White House (1989-07-19) (cropped).jpg
McClure in 1989
Jessica McClure

(1986-03-26) March 26, 1986 (age 35)
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 successfully free her from the 8 in (20 cm) well casing, approximately 22 ft (6.7 m) below grade.[1][2]

The story galvanized worldwide attention and was later featured in the 1989 ABC television movie 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, before discovering 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, with then-President Ronald Reagan saying "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.

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

ABC made a television movie of the story in 1989, Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure, starring Patty Duke and Beau Bridges 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, surgeons 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, carries no first-hand memory of the events.[11] Her parents divorced in 1990.[12]

Paramedic Robert O'Donnell died by suicide in 1995, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after the rescue, struggling to cope with the event and the subsequent decline in attention.[12]

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 (64 km) from Midland. They met at a day care center where she worked with his sister.[13] They have two children, a boy born in 2007 and a girl born in 2009.[14]

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 (3.2 km) from the well into which she fell.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

  • A 1992 South Indian Malayalam movie, starring Jayaram, Malootty, was based on the incident.[15]
  • The Simpsons referenced the incident with an episode about Bart Simpson falling and becoming stuck inside a well.
  • 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.[16]
  • In 2010, her story was featured satirically in the Saturday Night Live sketch "What Up With That."[17]
  • In the 2017 "Heavy Is the Head" episode of Modern Family, Cam 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. [18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "30 years ago: Rescue of 'Baby Jessica' from the well". 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.
  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'". 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): 184–8. doi:10.2519/jospt.1988.10.5.184. ISSN 0190-6011. PMID 18796963. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 4, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  8. ^ "Home - News, Entertainment, World Events Video - NBCUniversal Archives". NBCUniversal Archives. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  9. ^ Staff. "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. ^ 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.
  12. ^ a b Belkin, Lisa (July 23, 1995). "Death on the CNN Curve". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  13. ^ Celizic, Mike (November 6, 2007). "Baby Jessica 20 Years Later". MSNBC. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
  14. ^ 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 magazine.
  15. ^ "Row over Kerala State Films Award - Times of India". The Times of India.
  16. ^ Kot, Greg (September 28, 2010). "How 'Baby Jessica' Saved Blues Great Charlie Musselwhite". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  17. ^ "What Up With That?: Paul Rudd & Frank Rich - SNL". YouTube.
  18. ^ "Cam's Bitter Rivalry With Baby Jessica on 'Modern Family'". Retrieved May 8, 2021.

External links[edit]