Ottumwa, IA Well Cave In, Sept 1929


Wilkins Priest Apparently Will Recover from Long Stay Underground

Walls of Shaft Fall in on Worker and Almost Halt Plans of Rescue

OTTUMWA, Ia., Sept. 7.--(AP)--Buried alive for forty-two hours thirty-five feet deep in the earth by the caving in of a well, Wilkins Priest today was rescued by the Herculean efforts of hundreds of men.


Priest, numb from cold and partly paralyzed by pressure of sand and stone that sealed him at the bottom of the well, was conscious when taken out through a parallel shaft that had been sunk after it was found impossible to remove the tons of debris that had fallen over the imprisoned man.

The first call of the disinterested man was for water, as he had been without food or liquid since the curbing of the well gave way and buried him far below the surface of the earth in damp sand and perpetual darkness where he was barely able to move his head and hands at times. A casual examination by the county physician who had been with the rescue workers constantly indicated that Priest probably would recover.


The well cleaner was unable to talk of his experience while buried alive, and his condition was so low that the doctor said his survival was due only to the fact that a pipe had been forced through the debris and air blown to Priest with an electric fan.

Last night while the force of miners were digging like beavers to complete the secondary shaft, Priest still talked through this tube to those on earth, but his words were rambling, and he was almost inarticulate by the time the sappers finished the eight-foot tunnel from the relief shaft to the well and feverishly but carefully dug the entombed man from the rocks and sand that held him.


The charge of debris that filled the well was held from crushing Priest only by some half broken pieces of the rotten curbing that had caught crosswise in the well and the debris began to trickle down on the miners and Priest but a stone blocked the spillway and the work was finished safely.

It was 5:20 this morning when the miners first got Priest free of his cell of sand and stone. Word of this success brought cheers from a thousand persons who had waited grimly through the chilly night for the rescue.

Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, NV 7 Sept 1929