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 34)
Other namesJessica McClure Morales
Known forFalling into a well at 18 months
Daniel Morales (m. 2006)

Jessica McClure Morales (born March 26, 1986; also 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. Between that day and October 16, rescuers worked for 56 hours to free her from the 8-inch (20 cm) well casing 22 feet (6.7 m) below the ground.[1][2] The story gained worldwide attention (leading to some criticism as a media circus), and later became the subject of a 1989 ABC television movie Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure.


McClure's rescue proved to be a much more difficult ordeal than was first anticipated. Within hours of beginning the emergency procedure, the Midland Fire and Police Departments devised a plan that involved drilling a shaft parallel to the well and then drilling a tunnel at a right angle across to it. Enlisting the help of a variety of local (often out-of-work) oil drillers, the Midland officials had hoped to free McClure in minutes. However, the first workers to arrive on the scene found their tools barely adequate to penetrate the hard rock around the well. It took about six hours to drill the shaft and longer to drill the tunnel, because the jackhammers used were designed for drilling downward, rather than sideways. A mining engineer eventually arrived to help supervise and coordinate the rescue effort. TV viewers watched as paramedics and rescuers, drilling experts and contractors worked to save McClure's life. Meanwhile, they were reassured when they heard her singing “Winnie the Pooh” from deep in the well. As long as she was still singing, they knew she was still alive.[3] Forty-five hours after she fell into the well, the shaft and tunnel were finally completed.

The relatively new technology of waterjet cutting, used to cut through the hard rock around the well, was a vital part of the rescue.[4][5]

Ron Short, a roofing contractor who was born without collar bones because of cleidocranial dysostosis and so could collapse his shoulders to work in cramped corners, arrived at the site and offered to go down the shaft. They considered his offer, but did not use it.[6][7] One report said that he helped to clear tunneling debris away.[8]

Midland Fire Department paramedic Robert O'Donnell was ultimately able to inch his way into the tunnel and wrestle McClure free from the confines of the well, handing her to fellow paramedic Steve Forbes, who carried her up to safety before passing her to paramedic Bill Queen, who carried her to the waiting ambulance.

Media coverage[edit]

CNN was on the scene with around-the-clock coverage of the rescue effort. This massive media saturation of the ordeal prompted then-President Ronald Reagan to state that "everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on."

From the beginning and throughout the incident, the switchboard of local media outlet KMID-TV was flooded with telephone calls from news organizations and private individuals around the world, seeking the latest information on rescue efforts. In some cases, they shared their own insight into this and similar incidents.

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

The photograph of McClure being rescued fetched 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. It featured many participants in the actual rescue and its coverage 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 from loss of circulation while she was in the well. She also has a scar on her forehead where her head rubbed against the well casing. She had 15 surgeries over the years and has no first-hand memory of the event.[11]

Her parents divorced in 1990.[12]

Paramedic Robert O'Donnell, battling posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the arduous rescue effort and struggling to cope with the abrupt decline of the fame and recognition that had been lavished on him following his heroic act, died by suicide in 1995.[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 Church of Christ in Notrees, Texas, about 40 miles (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 of donations worth up to $800,000. Her father, Chip, said she had discussed setting up a trust fund for the college education of her children. It had earlier helped in the purchase of her present home, which is less than 2 miles (3.2 km) from the site of the incident.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

  • A 1992 South Indian Malayalam movie, starring Jayaram, Malootty, was based on the incident.[15]
  • 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]
  • Simpsons Radio Bart

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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Business Week. Bloomberg L.P. 1989.
  5. ^ National Science Foundation (U.S.) (1987). Annual report for fiscal year ... The Foundation.
  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. ISSN 0190-6011. 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.

External links[edit]