Baby Jessica Revisited

Yesterday, it was Jessie Kraus in Mulvane, Kansas. In 1987, it was Baby Jessica, in Midland, Texas. Back then, the case of 18-month-old Jessica McClure created a nationwide sensation. CBS News Correspondent Susan Spencer reports. She has no memory of what happened to her 12 years ago.

Jessica fell into an abandoned well and became trapped 22 feet down in a hole 8 inches wide. Rescuers thought at first they could tunnel to Jessica in just a few hours. Ground as hard as concrete stopped them cold. It took emergency crews two and a half days to reach the little girl. They rescued her, a dramatic moment covered on live television, after digging a parallel shaft and then breaking through the wall of the well.

"This is the one I'll never forget," says Midland police officer Andy Glasscock. "You could hear Jessica down in there. I heard little muffled moans and cries and stuff."

Jessica's parents, now divorced, have kept a low profile in the years since, saying they wanted their daughter to have a normal childhood. They did give a magazine interview for the 10th anniversary, in which Jessica was described as a healthy girl who makes A's and B's at school, plays the piano and French horn and whizzes through her neighborhood on rollerblades. She even has a boyfriend.

The man who rescued Jessica, paramedic Robert O'Donnell did not fare as well. Family members say he couldn't handle the praise or the pressure of instant stardom. He began abusing painkillers, and eventually committed suicide.

In Wichita a day after the rescue, Sedgwick County Fire Chief Gary Curmode said his first thought when he heard about the trapped boy had been of the Midland case.

In Midland, Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Klatt said this morning that it was "kind of strange" to see the replay of Jessica's ordeal, adding he was "tickled to death" to learn Jessy was safe. To the Kansas rescuers he said, "Praise the Lord. Congratulations for a job well done."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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