Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All Involved Agree, Sand Dune Rescue 'A Miracle'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All Involved Agree, Sand Dune Rescue 'A Miracle'

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- One minute, 6-year-old Nathan Woessner was scampering up a massive dune in northern Indiana with his dad and a friend. He was gone the next, without a warning or sound.

More than three hours later, rescuers pulled Nathan out from under 11 feet of sand on Friday. He showed no signs of life: He was cold to the touch, had no pulse and wasn't breathing. His limp body was put into the back of a pickup truck, which started toward a waiting ambulance.

The plan was to take him to the hospital rather than the coroner's office, even if he was dead, in order to "give the family and rescue workers hope," La Porte (Ind.) County Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Huffman said Monday.

As the truck bounced over the dune, a medic noticed something astonishing: The boy took a breath. Then, the cut on his head started bleeding. The jolt apparently shocked Nathan's body back to life, Mr. Huffman said. Nathan was rushed to the hospital and was crying in the emergency room when Mr. Huffman arrived a few minutes later. "Man, I tell you that was such a great feeling," he said. "This is not something that I, as the chief deputy coroner, get to report that often. It's an absolute miracle this child survived."

Nathan, of Sterling, Ill., remains in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, but he is expected to recover and be released in 10 to 14 days, Tracy Koogler, medical director of the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit, said Monday. Of greatest concern are his lungs, as the amount of sand he breathed in could lead to asthma-like symptoms, Dr. Koogler said.

Don Reul, Nathan's grandfather, was getting ready for bed after a long day of tooling around on motorcycles in New York state with his wife and another couple when the phone rang. On the other end was the "hysterical" voice of his daughter, Faith Woessner. "She said, 'Dad, Dad, we can't find him; he's under the sand," said Mr. Reul, a minister from Galva, Ill.

But he understood little else, and by the time he hung up, he believed that his grandson had fallen on the beach at Indiana Dunes National Seashore and had been pulled into Lake Michigan. Mr. Reul said he told his wife, "Nathan has died, he's drowned."

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, running for about 25 miles along Lake Michigan's southern shore, is a popular vacation spot that long has attracted families, hikers and birdwatchers. The dune Nathan fell feet-first into is one of the tallest, the 123-foot- tall Mount Baldy.

Nathan's 8-year-old friend rushed to where his dad and Nathan's dad were, and told them Nathan had vanished. Mr. Reul said that by the time Nathan's father found the hole, he could hear his son, but couldn't see him. The two men frantically dug sand from the spot where Nathan had fallen, but stopped after it was about 4 feet deep, Mr. …

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