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Boy Who Fell In Sand Dune Meets Rescuers

Nathan Woessner fell into a hole last month at Mount Baldy



    (Published Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013)

    The boy who survived a sand dune collapse got to meet the team who rescued him.

    Nathan Woessner fell into a hole last month at Mount Baldy, a popular dune at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and was buried for hours under 11 feet of sand.

    Incredibly, Nathan survived and recovered, leaving the hospital two weeks after his fall and starting first grade with his peers.

    Nathan and his family joined the rescuers Wednesday at events hosted by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer. Nathan received a standing ovation as the chamber filled to overflowing.

    "We gather today to celebrate ... an act of heroism by a multitude of individuals who showed the courage and the determination to rise to the challenge," Indiana Gov. Pence said. "This rescue occurred because of swift thinking, because of collaboration."

    Pence unveiled a proclamation honoring the 139 public safety workers and others who worked to save Nathan, calling it a "miracle on Mount Baldy."

    Woessner spent three-and-a-half hours trapped in the sand and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. At Comer Children's Hospital, he was breathing with a ventilator for a week.

    Woessner's grandfather, Pastor Don Reul, said the boy was at the dunes with his parents and another couple. The boy was walking to the top of Mt. Baldy with his dad, an adult friend of the family and another boy when he fell.

    "Part of the way up, Nathan stepped into a sink hole and disappeared out of the sight," Reul said. "They immediately went back, and he was nowhere to be seen. The ground had swallowed him up."

    Woessner was hollering out, Reul said, and they frantically began to dig to get him out.

    Officials say Woessner was found 11 feet down in the sand. Michigan City Fire Chief Ronnie Martin said his crews used heavy machinery to locate the boy.

    The area around the dune remains closed indefinitely after officials reported finding a second sinkhole near the area where Nathan was swallowed up.

    Crews from the Environmental Protection Agency found the hole, which is about 10 inches in diameter and at least five feet deep, during a sweep of the area with ground-penetrating radar.

    "This is obviously a very rare occurrence but we know it's not a unique occurrence," park ranger Bruce Rowe said.