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Georgia firefighter who rescued 7-year-old girl out of well dies after cancer battle

An online obituary for Lt. Clay Kierbow says he passed away at 46 on Aug. 27. He is survived by his wife and three children.

CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia firefighter who rescued a 7-year-old girl out of a well nearly a decade ago - descending into the well's small opening in a one-man, hourlong operation to save the severely injured girl - has died after a battle with cancer.

An online obituary for Lt. Clay Kierbow says he passed away at 46 on Aug. 27. He is survived by his wife and three children.

"He will be remembered as a caring son, a devoted husband, and a loving father," the obituary states. "He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

RELATED: Family of 7-year-old girl that fell in well helps firefighter that saved her

Services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Whitesburg.

On Dec. 30, 2013, Kierbow left an indelible legacy and forged a forever bond with Megan Winters and her family. Seven years old at the time, Winters slipped and fell, feet first, 50 feet to the bottom of an abandoned well in Whitesburg.

As soon as Carroll County firefighters arrived, they realized they had a problem - a 30-inch opening was too small for their team to fit through, except for one man - Firefighter Clay Kierbow.

Firefighters rigged up a pulley system with ropes and, an hour later, lowered Lt. Clay Kierbow into the well, and he gently pulled her out. She was severely injured from head to toe.  

"The fact that he was so willing to go in without hesitation, with no concern or himself or his feelings," Melissa Winters said, Megan's mother, told 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross earlier this year. "To just go down quickly and get her and make sure she came back to us safely, that just means everything." 

Their story made national headlines, with many calling Clay a hero, but he said he was doing his job. 

"That was the job, what I signed up to do, risk my life for others," he said. 

Clay retired from Carroll County County Fire Department after 20 years of service in 2017. The obituary notes after that he worked at Fitzpatrick Ford in Newnan as a salesman. In 2022 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. 

The Winters family helped organize a fundraiser for the Kierbows, partly to also help them get back on their feet after their home burned down in a fire.

 "She (Megan) came out so broken, so bruised and battered, but it could have been so much worse without the help of a local hero," Melissa Winters said.

The online obituary notes that messages of condolences can be sent to the Kierbow family at www.martin-hightower.com, the website for the chapel handling arrangements.


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