Rescuers pull infant Jessy from well after nearly five hours
May 14, 1999
The crowd of about 50 rescuers burst into applause as the child -- on a small stretcher wearing a tiny neck-brace, his clothes muddied -- was raised to safety.
The boy was immediately taken away by ambulance to an emergency helicopter for airlift to the hospital.
"This is a story that has a happy ending," an elated Fred Ervin, spokesman for Sedgwick County Emergency Management, told CNN as rescuers emerged with the toddler. "We do have that little 17-month-old Jessy out."
Tim Deneen, the Sedgwick firefighter who pulled the child from the well, said, "Any time you save somebody it's amazing. This is what we work for."
The boy was playing with his father in the yard when he fell feet first into the well around 7 p.m. (8 p.m. EDT) in this community, about 20 miles south of Wichita.
The well was about 10-inches in diameter and the boy was about 16 feet below. The parents stood nearby and were talking with him throughout the hours-long operation.
'A job well done'
Crews managed to get a rope around one of Jessy's wrists early in the rescue operation to secure him. They also heated the well and piped in oxygen to help him breathe and "to keep his body temperature constant," said Sedgwick County Deputy Fire Chief Greg Thompson.
Firefighters dug a tunnel about 21 feet deep near the well and tunneled toward it, slowly and meticulously inching forward, to reach the child. Rescuers worked in 15-minute shifts, digging by hand and taking dirt out in five-gallon buckets.
Four-by-fours and plywood were used to shore up the excavation to make sure the dirt didn't collapse onto rescuers and the infant.
"This is a job well done," Ervin said. "This is the ending they certainly wanted to have."
A fiber optic video camera had been lowered into the well giving rescuers a glimpse of Jessy as he remained stuck below. The child cried at times.
"He appears to be in very good condition. He's been very vocal, talking with us and crying," Thompson said before the successful rescue. "He doesn't appear to have any injuries at this time."
Early this morning, Wesley Hospital spokeswoman Kasey Baker said Jessy remains in good condition with a few scrapes and bumps to his side, head, arms and knee.
Baker says he's extremely tired after going through the ordeal. He was given a bath and is being held overnight for observation.
The incident eerily resembled the October 1987 rescue of 18-month-old Jessica McClure who fell into an abandoned well in Midland, Texas. It took emergency crews 2 1/2 days to reach the little girl.
Asked if the baby Jessica incident was on the minds of rescuers, Thompson simply said, "Yes, it was."
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