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Investigators find second hole at Mt Baldy dune where boy was buried in sand

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Investigators have found a second hole in the Mt. Baldy dune similar to the one from which young Nathan Woessner was rescued in July, the National Park Service (NPS) said today.

On Monday, NPS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, began using sensing equipment to locate any anomalies, gaps, or holes in the Mt. Baldy dune of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

“During the course of the work, investigators found a hole, approximately 10 inches in diameter, in the surface of the dune,” NPS said just before deadline this morning. “The hole resembles the size and shape of the hole described by the Woessner family. The hole appeared to be five-feet deep but may have been deeper as the sand at the bottom was very loose. The hole was not created by any human activity and is believed to have formed as a natural phenomenon. Samples of the sand and debris within the hole have been collected and will be analyzed.”

Additional equipment was to be deployed today at Mt. Baldy to collect sand samples from various depths within the hole, if it still exists, and areas near the location of the hole. “The samples could provide the dates of the sand deposition under this area of loose sand,” NPS said.

“NPS has developed an investigation team comprised of NPS geologists and hydrologists and university researchers from several disciplines,” NPS added. “The team will collectively make decisions about the progression of the investigation into the phenomenon associated with the conditions on Mt. Baldy.”

EPA’s limited use on Monday of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) testing is hoped to provide a three-dimensional model of the Mt. Baldy dune, both inside and out, as well as locate any anomalies within the dune which might require further investigation, NPS noted.

Additional testing and analysis of results will take weeks and the entire Mt. Baldy area will remain closed to the public until further notice.

“We realize that many people would like to visit Mt. Baldy and we regret that the area is closed,” Superintendent Constantine Dillon said. “But the fact that we do not know what caused the original hole, and that a new hole has spontaneously appeared, reinforces our concern that Mt. Baldy is not safe for visitors at this time.”

On July 12, Nathan Woessner, 6, of Sterling, Ill., was playing at Mt. Baldy when he fell into an 11-foot hole in the dune. Initial efforts to retrieve him caused sand to collapse into the hole, burying him. Nathan was trapped for more than three hours but was able to survive in an air pocket until he was rescued.

At the time, an NPS spokesman said that no records have been found of similar incidents either in the National Lakeshore or at any other location. The hole in which Nathan was trapped, however, is believed to have been naturally occurring and may be an artifact of the well documented southward drift of the Mt. Baldy dune.

Researchers at Indiana University Northwest have found that the annual sand accretion rate at Mt. Baldy varies from three meters to as many as six meters and NPS has suggested that dune’s steady movement may have uncovered a cavity left by the remnants of an old decomposed tree.

 

Posted 8/14/2013