LaPorte County 2013 Year in Review

2013-12-29T00:00:00Z 2014-08-28T18:04:13Z LaPorte County 2013 Year in ReviewTimes Staff
December 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Miracle on Mount Baldy saves 6-year-old Illinoisan's life

MICHIGAN CITY | Many dubbed the rescue of 6-year-old Nathan Woessner of Sterling, Ill., over the summer as the Miracle on Mount Baldy.

The young boy was visiting the site of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Michigan City on July 12, when the dune on which he was playing collapsed, sending the boy some 11 feet under sand.

It took rescuers some three hours to dig Nathan out from underneath the sand. The boy was transported to The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital where he initially was in a coma. Nathan remained in the hospital for 11 days before being released. The child recovered from the incident.

The collapse of the dune left scientists baffled. Equipment was brought in to determine why it collapsed, but no answers have, as yet, been found.

Mount Baldy was closed to the public after the incident and remains closed.

Man arrested in unsolved '93 murder of teenage girlfriend

A LaPorte family may finally get justice after a suspect was arrested in the 1993 murder of their teenage daughter.

Jason Tibbs, 38, is still awaiting trial on murder charges for the strangling death of Rayna Rison.

A major break in the case once featured on ''America's Most Wanted'' came from a man, then 14, who claims he was in hiding a barn and saw the body when Tibbs pulled in and opened the trunk lid of a car.

Eric Freeman also told investigators he was with Tibbs when he saw him strangle Rison after they argued about her not wanting to get back together.

LaPorte football player with ailing heart dies at practice

Jake West was like the boy next door when in September he collapsed on the LaPorte High School football field and died.

His death during practice from a genetic heart condition made news across the country and he was honored on the Lucas Oil Stadium field by the Indianapolis Colts, who gave his father, Scott, and mother, Julie, a Colts jersey featuring Jake's name and the No. 26 he wore for the Slicers.

Over 90 teammates of Jake also were allowed on the field and a memorial service for the boy drew more than 3,000 people to the packed Kiwanis Field bleachers.

The family hoped Jake's death will raise enough awareness to prevent another death from arrhyphmogenic right ventricular cardio myopathy, a thinning of the right ventricle walls that eventually leaves the heart unable to pump blood.

"No one knew Jake had a bad heart," said his father, Scott.

Grain elevator explosion kills worker, 67, in Union Mills

A grain elevator in Union Mills is being rebuilt following a July explosion that killed one of the employees.

James Swank, 67, was thrown off a work platform on a silo more than 100 feet off the ground from the impact of the blast.

Investigators determined the cause of the explosion was a steel shaft on a pulley operating a conveyor coming loose.

Friction from the pulley rubbing against a concrete wall as the conveyor kept operating generated enough heat to ignite grain dust.

Four silos were heavily damaged in the blast and complete restoration of the grain elevator is expected by spring.

Town Council still is advancing

Michigan City rejects school tax increase; layoffs eyed

As many as 20 percent of the teachers in Michigan City could be let go after voters in November resoundingly said no to raising property taxes to close at least a $3 million hole in next year's budget.

A 17-cent increase in the tax levy that would have increased the average homeowner's yearly tax bill by more than $50 was defeated.

Fifty-seven percent of the voters opposed, forcing school officials after making millions of dollars already in cuts to start making some painful decisions.

No financial decisions have been made yet but School Board President Don Delaney predicted as many as 100 teachers will have to be laid off.

Closing schools also is being given serious consideration. The school district has more than $90 million in outstanding debt and has seen annual drops in state funding due to Indiana's property tax restructuring and declining student enrollment.

Chief Justice Roberts speaks at LaLumiere commencement

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts spoke to graduates in May at his alma mater LaLumiere High School north of LaPorte.

Roberts, a 1973 graduate of the private Roman Catholic boarding school, told the 62-member class of 2013 that perseverance is the key to overcoming life's obstacles to achieve their dreams.

And, despite holding the top position in the nation's highest court, Roberts was described by classmates as still being a "regular guy" just as they had remembered.

"He's so normal for being brilliant. He just ended up where he should," said Mike Shannon, who played football at the school with Roberts, a former Long Beach resident.

Roberts became the 17th chief justice after his nomination by then President George W. Bush to fill a void created by the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

His father was a plant manager at the former Bethlehem Steel in Burns Harbor after his family moved here from New York when Roberts was in the fourth grade.

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