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Baby Jessica’s Rescuer Commits Suicide ‘Ever Since That Jessica Deal, His Life Fell Apart,’ Brother Says

Thu., April 27, 1995, midnight

Nearly eight years ago, the nation waited transfixed as paramedic Robert O’Donnell shimmied through a shaft to dislodge a toddler wedged down a well.

On Monday, the body of the 37-year-old man who rescued Jessica McClure in 1987 was found on his parents’ ranch near Stanton, about 20 miles northeast of Midland.

Robert O’Donnell wrote a suicide note and drove to a pasture, where he apparently shot himself to death, Glasscock County Deputy Sheriff Fred Schroyer said.

“Ever since that Jessica deal, his life fell apart,” brother Ricky O’Donnell said Wednesday.

O’Donnell said people had often asked his brother about the ordeal that began Oct. 14, 1987, when the 18-month-old child fell 22 feet down an abandoned well in her aunt’s back yard in Midland.

Robert O’Donnell and others worked 58 hours to reach Jessica, who was finally rescued on Oct. 16.

Television viewers tuned in nationwide.

O’Donnell was chosen to descend a newly drilled rescue shaft parallel to the well because of his slight frame.

O’Donnell went on to portray a reporter in a made-for-TV movie about the rescue. His brother said he got divorced and quit the Midland Fire Department in 1992.


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