Retired Pasadena firefighter Walter Patrick Ireland, aged 94, died earlier this week after a short illness. In 1949, Ireland was involved in the two-day effort to rescue 3-year-old Kathy Fiscus from an abandoned well in San Marino, California. Kathy had been playing in an open field with friends when she disappeared underground after falling into the 14" opening of the uncapped well. Kathy was already dead by the time she was pulled up from a depth of nearly 100-feet. Accounts differ as to who pulled her up. The Pasadena Star-News article linked above credits Ireland, while the TIME magazine article (also linked above) indicates that it was firefighter Bill Yancey. In any case, Ireland joined the Pasadena Fire Department in 1940 and retired as a captain after 34 years of service.
For 27 hours, Los Angeles TV station KTLA pre-empted its regularly-scheduled programming to broadcast live news coverage of the event to its viewers, instantaneously bringing them each new wrinkle in the horrifying story. Media historians generally agree that KTLA's coverage of the event set the standard for the kind of live on-the-scene reporting that we still see today.
Within weeks, Kentucky singer Jimmie Osborne had recorded The Death Of Little Kathy Fiscus for the King label, which became a top ten hit. In 1964, Starday released the Howard Vokes version of the song, which can be heard below.