Boy rescued from Ind. dune in serious condition - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Condition of boy rescued from Ind. sand dune upgraded to `serious`

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By TOM COYNE

Associated Press

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 National Lakeshore.

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 sand.

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.

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