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Child Rescued From Well in Kansas

May 14, 1999

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) _ A toddler who fell 16 feet into a narrow well Thursday night was pulled free five hours later by firefighters who dug a tunnel to rescue him. He survived with ``just some bumps and some scrapes.″

The 17-month-old Jessy was brought out to cheers and applause from rescue workers shortly before midnight as his family waited above. Strapped to a backboard and wearing a neck brace, he was taken away in an ambulance.

Wichita firefighter Tim Deneen, who pulled the boy out, said he was dirty but looked all right.

``He didn’t cry until I moved him. Then he let go,″ he said.

During the rescue, the boy talked to rescuers and his parents from deep inside the well, which was only 8 to 10 inches wide and 25 feet deep.

Jessy’s mother was ``calming him ... telling him that she loves him,″ Sedgwick County Fire Marshal Greg Thompson said.

Deneen said he kept telling the boy, ``hang in there, we’ll have you out in just a few minutes.

Under emergency flood lights, about 50 emergency workers dug a trench about 25 feet deep alongside the well. They worked in 15-minute shifts, digging by hand toward the well and taking dirt out in 5-gallon buckets.

About 100 neighbors joined television crews about a block from the scene at a new housing development in Mulvane, 20 miles south of Wichita. The scene was reminiscent of another toddler rescue in Texas more than 11 years ago.

Rescuers fed oxygen to Jessy through tubes lowered into the well, and warm air was pumped in to keep him from getting too cold. Thompson said the ground temperature was about 65 degrees.

A video camera lowered into the well showed the boy’s arm was pinned above his head, but that he was moving and crying and appeared to be unhurt. The boy was secured with a rope, which he tugged on during the rescue.

Jessy’s parents, whose names were not released, saw their son briefly before he was taken to a medical helicopter. Kasey Baker, spokeswoman at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, said Jessy would spend the night there.

``Jessy is in good condition. Just some bumps and some scrapes,″ she said. ``They’re observing him overnight.″

The well in his backyard had been dug recently and had not been finished. Jessy’s father was in the yard with him when the little boy slipped into the well shortly before 7 p.m.

Emergency workers used lumber to shore up the well’s sides to prevent rocks or dirt from falling on the child.

Thompson said the diggers worked slowly to make sure the walls didn’t cave it on the child. He said it was a similar situation to when a child fell into a well in Midland, Texas, about 11 1/2 years ago.

In October 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell into an abandoned well in Midland and became trapped 22 feet down in a hole 8 inches wide.

It took emergency crews 2 1/2 days to reach the little girl. They rescued her after digging a shaft parallel to the one that trapped her and then breaking through the wall of the well.

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