Remarkable Rescue: Five Farmers Save Father and 6-Year-Old Son After Falling 70 Feet into a Well
The evening of Monday, May 10, 2021 was a day just like any other for the Leseberg family in Rock Port, Mo. Brandon Leseberg, a Missouri farmer and cattle producer, was working cows while his sons, Louie and Everett, played. As Brandon was closing the gate to head home, his sons stopped for a drink out of the water spigot nearby, just as they had done many times before.
As Brandon was still closing the gate to the pasture, he noticed Louie, who was just standing a few feet away seconds before, was nowhere to be seen.
**WATCH THE FAMILY AND FARMERS RECALL THE REMARKABLE RESCUE HERE**
“I asked Everett, ‘Where’s Louie? What was wrong?’ and he said Louie fell in the hole. And he pointed down, to a tiny hole through the board,” says Brandon.
What Brandon didn’t realize is the board that was nailed across the well to cover it up had rotted out in the middle over time. And as Louie was taking a drink, the board gave in, and 6-year-old Louie fell 70 feet straight down into frigid water at the bottom of the well.
“I bet that was only just a matter of a few seconds after he fell,” remembers Brandon. “I didn't think. I just ran over to that hole that looked not much bigger than a basketball, and I didn't see anything, and I couldn't hear anything for a couple more seconds. And then I heard a splash and some gasping. And there was no thinking; I jumped.”
Brandon knew Louie could barely swim. And with the sounds of his son drowning, Brandon said time wasn’t an option. So, without thinking twice, he just jumped in.
“I went through the same hole Louie was in,” says Brandon. “I remember that I just jumped through that hole in the board, and I obviously made it a lot bigger. But you know, you don’t think. I was just looking for the fastest way down there.”
Without the board still covering the well, Brandon couldn’t see in before he jumped. And so as Brandon was freefalling, he says about halfway down something told him to reach out.
“Turns out there was a pipe [on the side of the well],” says Brandon. “After I jumped down and my eyes adjusted a bit in the dark well, it felt like it was quite a ways down. But when I looked up, I was able to grab ahold of the pipe that goes down to the well motor and stop my descent.”
Able to catch himself from falling on top of Louie in the bottom of the well, Brandon said he would fall, and then reach out to grab the pipe in order to help stop his fall. He did that three times, all while Louie was still screaming for help. As Brandon reached Louie, he reached for his son, while bracing himself against the well just above the water.
“I still had ahold of that pipe, and I just braced both my back and my feet up there and then grabbed Louie and put him on my chest, because the water – we never took the temp on it – I’m sure it was close to 50 degrees if not colder, and he was already shivering,” says Brandon.
Calls for Help
After Brandon reached the bottom and picked up Louie, he realized there was no way he could climb back up.
“Once I was down there, Louie had enough confidence in me, he said, ‘Alright, Dad, you can pull us out now.’ And I told him no, because the last 20 feet or so was so slick on the pipe, I knew I couldn't hold onto it. It just like ziplined into the water.”
“He said, ‘Dad, how are we going to get out?’ I said, ‘Your brother Everett is going to have to save us.’ And so he goes, ‘How's he going to do that?’ I said, ‘He's going to have to run to the road.’”
From 70 feet down in the dark well, Brandon yelled up to his 3-year-old son standing up top.
“I just told Everett he was going to have to be a big boy and run out and stand by the mailbox until somebody drove by. And be a big boy for us, I told him. You’re going to have to save us,” says Brandon.
With strict instructions to stay out of the road, that’s exactly what 3-year-old Everett did.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
“I saw him standing along the road, and we just couldn't figure out why he was standing there,” remembers Christi McKenney, a neighbor who happened to drive by while Everett was standing by the mailbox. “So, we stopped. And he was saying, ‘My daddy's in a hole.’”
As Christi and her husband, Mark, reached the farm, they thought the hole to which Everett was referring was in the cow pasture. But then she noticed the 4-wheeler was still running.
“And I said, ‘Okay, show me where he's at.’ And he pointed down in that well. And then I yelled at Mark.
“I just jumped out of the pickup and called 911,” says Mark McKenny.
The Call to 911
The 911 call obtained by Farm Journal reveals the initial words spelled out during that call.
“911, where's your emergency?” says the 911 operator. “This is Mark McKenney. I need some help. A guy fell in the well, and a boy is in the well,” answers Mark.
As the 911 operator asks Mark for the address, she also asked questions about possible injuries and details of the fall.
“How far did they fall?” asks the operator. “I don't know, probably 40 to 50 (feet),” replies Mark. “Are they complaining of any injuries?” asks the operator. “I don't know. They just said they needed help. He went down to get his boy out of the well,” answers Mark.
More Calls for Help
As the 911 operator asked more questions, Mark instructed his wife Christi to call their neighbor for help.
“I was so emotional, I can't even remember what I said,” says Christi. “I didn't even know if he could even get out of it what I was trying to tell him.”
That neighbor was Dan Athen, a farmer who lives just up the road from the Leseberg farm.
“When she first called, she was pretty distraught,” Dan recalls. “And what I got out of it was Brandon fell. I didn't know what or where. And then she finally said ‘south of your house.’ So, I knew it was Brandon Leseberg. And then she got out that he fell into the well.”
Thinking it was just Brandon in the well, he thought fast after he hung up the phone.
“I knew how deep my well was, which is about 140-feet deep,” says Dan. “And so I thought to grab a barn rope; I didn't even know how long it was.”
As Dan pulled up to the well, the 911 call captured his first words.
“Brandon, Dan Athen. We're going to try to send a rope down to you,” Dan yelled.
“Then Brandon said, ‘OK, we're going to send Louie up first,’” says Dan. “That's the first that I knew that his son was in the well.”
Dan says with those words, his heart sank. Dan, a father, too, had his teenage son by his side. And, he says, to discover a 6-year-old was stranded at the bottom of the well was shocking and heartbreaking.
The Remarkable Rescue
Without wasting any time, Dan and Mark sent the rope down to get Louie first, but Dan still didn’t know just how far down they were, or if his rope was long enough to rescue the father and son.
“The rope Dan brought was like 85-feet long,” says Mark, a detail they didn’t know until after they measured it days later. “And we used about every bit of that rope to get him out of there.”
But as the men pulled the 6-year-old up, Louie was heavier than Dan thought he would be.
“All of a sudden, something broke free, and it got lighter,” says Dan. “Well, when he got up here, he had wires wrapped around his arm. And I think it was just pulling the pump up and dragging it up on the side of the well, too.”
At that time, Eric Duncan, who works on the Leseberg family farm, and Jacob McKenney, a family friend, also showed up to help.
“We finished pulling them up, and I had ahold of the rope right above his hands. And I just sat Louie on my knee while we took the wires off him,” says Eric. “I knew I still had a bunch of hoodies left in my pickup. So, I just picked him up, took him to the pickup, wrapped him up and turned the heater on as high as I could.”
Less than 9 minutes after the 911 call was made by Mark, Louie was out. And those initial reactions were also caught on the 911 call.
“You're out, buddy. You're out, you're out,” you can hear on the 911 call. “We'll get you in the pickup, and we'll get you warmed up.”
With Brandon still at the bottom of the well, the five farmers knew he would be too heavy to pull him up with just the rope, as they did with Louie. So, thinking quickly, they used what was left of the old windmill surrounding the well as a hoist.
“We just started pulling and hollered down to Brandon to ask him if he was able to help pull himself up on the pipe. And he said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Are you ready to go?’ And he said, ‘Let's go.’ And we started pulling,” says Dan.
Brandon says after he reached the top after the guys finished pulling him up, he collapsed from bracing himself against the walls of the well for so long.
“I was a little more exhausted than I thought from the adrenaline,” says Brandon. “That's what keeps you going in a situation like that.”
As Brandon looked around and saw emergency vehicles starting to enter the farm, he realized it was those five farmers who rescued him, as well as his son, Louie, before the ambulance had even reached the farm.
The series of events Brandon says didn’t happen by chance, as he remembers what he and Louie did while their 3-year-old son and brother ran to get help.
“What do we do? Did we pray a lot?” Brandon asks Louie, as Louie shook his head yes. “You asked me who was going to save us? Who saved us?” Brandon asks. “God,” answers Louie. “And were there angels all around us? Had to be,” says Brandon.
“Well, I think the hero here is probably Everett,” says Dan. “Sending him out to the highway to stop somebody for help. What would be going through a dad's mind as you have your son in the well. How am you going to get help out of there? And what a trooper to go out there to the road for help. He's the hero here. Not us. We're just neighbors to help any time anyone needs anything.”
The five farmers performed one dramatic rescue after a fall of fate.
“I can remember being in the bottom of the well and Louie said, ‘Dad, are you crying?’ I said, ‘No. This is my happy laugh. It's all I can remember,’” Brandon says as he tears up.
As Bandon relives the fall, he says it wasn’t a coincidence he and Louie both survived with only a few scratches. It wasn’t by chance the two fell more than 70 feet into a cold, dark well with no major injuries. And it wasn’t by luck that 3-year-old Everett, who doesn’t always speak the best, listened and found the words to tell Christi and Mark what had happened, all while Christi and Mark happened to be driving by and saw something out of place and knew to stop.
“Literally, we had about 2 feet, looking back now, or even a foot and a half, to clear everything where it was just a freefall,” says Brandon. “And you know, we both did that. So, there's too many good things that happened that day that you can't mark that as luck or coincidence.”
Before the farmers hoisted Brandon up, he snapped this picture. His cellphone had been with him the entire time, but that deep into a well, he had no service to call for help. He captured the picture to remember that day and just how far those two boys fell. The small circle of light is the the top of the well. Brandon says he wanted to document the miraculous outcome, which is one not even those who witnessed it can still explain.
“How they’re alive is amazing,” says Jacob.
“You hear about people falling in the well, but you don't ever hear about that outcome. It's just, I don't know, one in a million to be alive,” says Eric.
“We have angels looking after us,” says Brandon. “God was up there. There must be something special he wants to do with these boys is all I know.”
Being “Well Aware”
This Father's Day weekend, the story shows the lengths of a father’s love, one that proved to be a powerful and unbreakable that May Day.
Even before Brandon and Louie had left the hospital from being checked for any unknown injuries after the fall, Brandon had already called to get a concrete cap put on the well. And Brandon says he and the boys now count windmills on their drives, making sure they’re “well aware.” And the main reason Brandon agreed to share his story was in hopes it would help prompt others to cap their wells with concrete, and ultimately, possibly save another life.