At about 19:00 on that day, Alfredo fell into an artesian well which was very narrow and deep (about 30 centimeters wide and 80 meters deep). His position, on arrival of the first rescuers, was estimated at around 36 meters below ground level. To reach him, a parallel shaft was constructed beside the well. Unfortunately, the drilling caused him to slip an estimated 30 meters farther down the well.
The drama caused unprecedented media attention as the live broadcast on television went on for 18 hours non-stop. RAI, Italian public television, records audiences of 21 million people at peak times. The Italian President at the time, Sandro Pertini, personally visited the scene.
As rescue attempts became more desperate, Angelo Licheri, a volunteer, was secured and lowered into the well to try to save Alfredo. He did manage to reach him and tried to secure a harness around him to pull him out, but failed. Dramatically, none of the further attempts to save him had success; in fact, he only slipped down lower and lower. Licheri was upside down in the well for 45 minutes and never completely recovered from the injuries caused by the descent.
After many hours, Alfredo's voice (relayed by a microphone) was getting weaker and he is thought to have died around 06:30 on 13 June. It was another volunteer, Donato Caruso, who realized that he was dead while trying once again to secure a harness on him. His body was finally recovered on 11 July, 28 days after his death.
Subsequently, Alfredo's mother, Franca Rampi, founded the "Rampi Center" that helps and encourages the Civil Protection of children.
The attempted rescue was a major media event. It was the first time in Italy that a live outside broadcast had attracted millions of people to follow the events on TV. Initially, images were transmitted live because it was believed that there would be a quick and positive outcome. After some time the situation appeared to be slowly worsening, but this did not interrupt the transmissions. It posed many questions about privacy and the ethics of broadcasting such events which sparked a widespread public debate. The story also made the international news, a BBC Headlines broadcast carrying the story of a rescue attempt as its top headline on 12 June.
There was later some speculation surrounding the circumstances of the accident. During the autopsy of Alfredo's frozen corpse, it appeared he was wearing a harness. Whilst being questioned by the police, rescuer Angelo Licheri, said he had placed it on him when he was falling in the hope it might be used to save him. This theory was challenged by the Fire Brigade who use a similar one, stating it would have been virtually impossible to have put it on him in the confines of the well. The judge of the case speculated he may have been lowered into the well, rather than falling in by accident. The investigations were, however, suspended as it was impossible to reach a verdict.
Italian alternative rock band Baustelle wrote a song about the tragedy. The song, "Alfredo", is track 10 on their 2008 album "Amen". Among other prizes, Amen won that year's "Targa Tenco", one of the most prestigious music acknowledgments in Italy.