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Mother Recalls 1949 Well Accident That Ended In Tragedy With AM-Well Rescue

October 17, 1987

RANCHO BERNARDO, Calif. (AP) _ The rescue of toddler Jessica McClure from a Texas well recalled painful memories for Alice Fiscus, whose 3 1/2 -year-old daughter died in a similar accident 38 years ago.

″You try to forget, each time something like this happens, why it brings it back,″ Mrs. Fiscus told KFMB-TV as workers still struggled to reach the 18-month-old month old girl. ″It’s something that’s helped us - to think it has helped other children.

″But I do want to send my love and prayers to this family,″ she added.

Jessica fell into an abandoned well in Midland, Texas, much as did Kathy Fiscus on April 8, 1949, while racing across a field with her sister and cousin in San Marino, a suburb of Los Angeles.

The struggle to free Kathy gripped America, just as did the efforts Thursday and Friday in Texas. But after 49 hours, when Kathy’s body was brought up, the world learned she was dead, apparently from injuries suffered while falling in.

In Kathy’s case, the rescue effort by 132 volunteers was watched by a hushed crowd of 25,000 in San Marino, a suburb 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Others huddled by black-and-white television sets around the city, watching KTLA-Channel 5, the first televison station in Los Angeles.

Kathy’s plight touched parents around the world. In London and Stockholm, papers delayed publication, awaiting the news. Articles about the search even were published behind the Iron Curtain.

″We had prayers from everywhere in the world. It was absolutely unbelievable,″ Mrs. Fiscus recalled.

The Fiscus family received more than 22,000 donations, which were given to Los Angeles’ Children’s Hospital.

Mrs. Fiscus is well-known in Rancho Bernardo, an affluent community north of San Diego, where she works as a volunteer for the auxiliary group at Palomar-Pomerado Hospital.

She urged parents to consider what befell Jessica and Kathy as a reminder of safety risks facing their children.

″Please look in your yard. Look around where your children play,″ Mrs. Fiscus said. ″There was absolutely no way we could have ever seen where Kathy fell.

″I’m sure these parents (in Texas) would say the same thing, that they probably didn’t even know that was even there and it was dangerous,″ she said.

Today, the place where Kathy Fiscus fell is the site of San Marino High School. In town, a rose garden and plaque at the city library are Kathy’s memorials.

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