The condition of the 6-year-old boy rescued from a
northwest Indiana dune was upgraded to serious Thursday, while
National Park Service officials continued to try to figure out what
caused him to become trapped under 11 feet of sand.
Nathan Woessner of Sterling, Ill., had been in critical condition at
Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago since Friday, when he was rescued
after being trapped for more than three hours at Indiana Dunes
Dr. Rachel Wolfson said Nathan has been removed from a ventilator, is
recovering from sedation and he continues to respond to commands.
Doctors have said the boy is expected to make a full neurological
recovery, though he may suffer lingering lung problems from inhaling
National Park Service personnel are trying to figure out how Nathan
suddenly got swallowed by the large sand dune known as Mount Baldy.
"We haven't ruled out anything and we haven't drawn any conclusions at
this point," Ranger Bruce Rowe said Thursday.
The Mount Baldy area, which includes about a half-mile of shoreline,
will remain closed for weeks, possibly until after Labor Day, until
the proper equipment and experts can be brought in, he said.
The first step will be for a conductivity study to be done to find
possible anomalies in the 43-acre sand dune, Rowe said. If those are
found, ground-penetrating radar will be brought in to get a better
idea of what could have caused the sand to collapse, he said.
Todd Thompson, assistant director for research at the Indiana
Geological Survey, said he's concerned the heavy equipment and the
digging done to rescue Nathan may have altered the structure of the
sediment in the dune.
"You may not be able to see as well as you would like," Thompson said.
"I think (the radar) would have a hard time finding an air pocket. But
I think it would be able to recognize any kind of anomalous feature
down in there."
Rowe said National Park Service personnel have been in contact with
officials at other national and state parks with coastal dunes to see
if anyone has heard of anything similar.
"So far, in terms of finding other researchers who know about this, we
haven't found anyone yet," he said. "We don't even know what the
proper technical term would be."
Workers at the park won't be allowed on Mount Baldy until proper
safety protocols are written, Rowe said.
The rest of the park remains open because the dunes the public are
allowed to walk on have steps or boardwalks on them, Rowe said.
"Because of that, we thought it was safe to keep the rest of the park
open," he said.