San Marino, CA Child Falls Into Abandoned Well, Apr 1949

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Kathy Found Dead in Old Well; Body Located at 85-Foot Level

Discovery Ends 53 Hours Of Frantic Rescue Efforts.

SAN MARINO, Calif., April 10 (UP).---Tiny Kathy Fiscus died in the abandoned well which became her tomb within three hours after she slipped into the 14-inch mouth of the rusty iron casing Friday afternoon, Dr. Paul Hanson announced Sunday night.

Hanson said the cause of death "undoubtedly" was drowning. He said her body apparently had been under three feet of water and was water-soaked when found. An autopsy will be performed Monday, he said.

Fifty-six minutes after Hanson made his announcement at 8:58 p.m. (Pacific time), 3-year-old Kathy's body, her pretty pink party dress shrouded in a gray blanket, was brought to the surface.

She came up in the arms of Bill Yancey, a sewer contractor who was one of the most active of the many volunteers who risked their lives and gave of their time and money in hopes that Kathy might be saved.


The body was placed in a black car and immediately driven away as bulldozers shoved dirt into a huge 65-foot deep trough which represented one of the unsuccessful efforts to rescue the baby.

Hanson, the doctor who brought Kathy into the world, said she probably had been dead since shortly after 6:30 p.m. Friday. It was at that time she stopped speaking, two hours after she fell into the 14-inch iron well casing while chasing her sister and cousin through a vacant lot.

News of her plight started a large and concentrated rescue effort as midgets, circus thin men, jockeys and children offered to go down the well casing after Kathy and heavy digging and drilling equipment was rushed to the scene under police escort.

Offers to go down the well were refused because the casing was so old and broken it was feared any volunteer would be badly cut.


Meanwhile, two rescue shafts were started on opposite sides of the well, volunteer workers toiling under the glare of flood lights rushed from a Hollywood studio.

On one side, giant clamshell shovels scooped out a hug trough. By Saturday afternoon it was down sixty-five feet and a lateral tunnel was driven through to the well casing. Machinist O. A. Kelly made an opening in the casing and reported he thought he saw Kathy's pink dress at about the ninety-five foot level.

Efforts to rescue the tot from that side were abandoned because of threats of a cavein.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the well, oil drilling equipment pushed 24-inch shaft ninety-three feet into the ground. Then volunteer workers, risking death in threatened caveins, went down another ten feet, digging by hand.

Finally Kelly and Homer E. (Whitey) Blickensderfer cut into the well casing itself. They found that Kathy was dead and had slipped was dead and had slipped down to about the 95-foot level. She was within reach, but her legs were so twisted and cramped that they could not move her.

D. Robert McCullock, one of the Fiscus physicians, who was waiting at St. Luke's hospital in Pasadena to administer emergency treatment, was called. He went into the rescue shaft and crawled over to the well.


Assisted by gentle tugs on a rope tied to the baby's body and pulled from the mouth of the well, McCullock was able to free the body in its water-soaked, tattered pink party dress.

Then he lifted it into the lateral tunnel and wormed his way backward with it to the rescue shaft where Yancey wrapped it in a blanket and bore it to the surface.

There was no water in the well where the body was found, but Kathy's clothing was water-soaked. There was no explanation as to what happened to the water in which Kathy drowned. It was believed that the water which seeped into the rescue shaft and halted operations this morning may have come from the well.

The delay appeared tragic at the time. Several doctors had expressed opinions that she still could have been alive. It was thought then that every minute counted and man after man risked his life to keep the flicker of hope alive.

After Kathy's body was whisked away to a mortuary. Consulting Engineer Raymond Hill, who directed the heroic rescue operations, said all signs of the fruitless struggle would be removed by morning.

"When I leave, no one will know there has been any activity but plowing," he said.