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Toddler Freed From Kansas Well

May 14, 1999

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) _ A toddler who fell 16 feet into a narrow well Thursday night was pulled free about five hours later after firefighters dug a tunnel to rescue him.

Firefighters freed 17-month-old Jesse shortly before midnight as his family waited above. He was strapped to a board and appeared to be in good shape, rescuers said.

The boy was immediately taken away by ambulance to the hospital. During the rescue effort, Jesse was ``very vocal, he’s been talking to us and crying,″ Sedgwick County Fire Marshal Greg Thompson said.

About 50 emergency workers worked under emergency flood lights as Jesse’s parents, whose names were not released, talked to their son.

Firefighters dug a tunnel about 25 feet deep near the well and tunneled toward it to reach the child. Rescuers 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 that were kept about a block from the scene in a recently built housing development in Mulvane, 20 miles south of Wichita.

``They were able to get a rope around his wrist, so he is somewhat secure,″ Mulvane Mayor Jim Ford told KSNW-TV. ``And he did help with the rope so that’s telling us it’s doing pretty good.″

The well is 20 to 25 feet deep and only 8 to 10 inches wide. The boy was outside with his father shortly before 7 p.m. when he fell 16 feet and became stuck with one arm over his head, authorities said.

Rescuers fed oxygen to Jesse through tubes lowered into the well to help the child breathe. Thompson said Jesse occasionally grabbed hold of a tube or tugged it.

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

Before the rescue, Thompson said the diggers were working slowly.

``We know what happened in Midland, Texas. It’s a very similar situation,″ he said.

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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