On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell into a well in Midland, Texas.
She’d been playing in the backyard of her aunt’s home, turned daycare centre, when her mother Cissy, who had been watching her, took a phone call and very briefly turned away.
The well she stumbled into was 6.7 metres deep and only 20 centimetres in diameter. It would take 58 hours to retrieve her, in a story that captured international headlines.
WATCH: Jessica interviewed 30 years on from the rescue.
Retrieving ‘Baby Jessica’, as she was referred to by the media, could be compared to the 2018 cave rescue of the young soccer team in Thailand. All eyes were on the extraordinarily difficult rescue mission, which required the use of a rat-hole rig – a machine normally used to plant telephone poles in the ground.
Rescue teams had to drill a deep hole parallel to the well, and then drill a horizontal tunnel between the two, which popped open about 60cm below where Jessica was trapped in the well’s shaft. It took forever to drill the sideways tunnel because the jackhammers were designed to go down, not across.
In the meantime, oxygen was pumped down the well and rescuers would sing nursery rhymes down the opening, as they tried to comfort the moaning, wailing toddler.