Boy at Chicago hospital after rescue from Michigan City sand hole

2013-07-14T10:10:00Z 2013-07-14T21:45:08Z Boy at Chicago hospital after rescue from Michigan City sand holeTimes Staff nwitimes.com
July 14, 2013 10:10 am  • 

MICHIGAN CITY | A 6-year-old Sterling, Ill., boy, rescued from a sand hole in the Mount Baldy section of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore remained in critical condition Sunday morning at The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.

"He is listed in critical condition, but when he arrived he was able to respond to simple commands and he has responded well to mechanical ventilation," said University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong. 

"His parents want to extend their deepest thanks to the Michigan City fire and police departments and all the authorities, private companies and individuals who contributed to the rescue effort. They also ask that people include this little boy in their prayers."

Bruce Rowe, public information officer of the park service, said early Saturday night, authorities still cannot release the name of the boy. He said the boy's family is from Sterling, a community of 15,370 in the northwest corner of Illinois.

Rowe said the cause of the collapse in the dune face that resulted in the boy's being dragged 11 feet beneath the surface is still under investigation by park service rangers.

Rowe said the incident happened about half way up the towering dune's north slope, facing Lake Michigan. He said it was in the western portion of the park but not near any of the hard-surfaced trails.

Police and other emergency personnel were called about 4:30 p.m. Friday to Mount Baldy, just west of the NIPSCO cooling tower off U.S. 12.

Michigan City Fire Chief Ralph Martin said there were signs of life in the boy when rescuers pulled him from the sand.

"They say he was in pretty good shape. Our prayers are going out to the family and the child," Martin said.

Pictures of the scene displayed by various media outlets showed searchers with a backhoe inside a large sand hole where the boy was thought to be.

Martin said it's believed the boy fell into the sand hole, which was at least 11 feet deep and was covered by sand that caved in from the sides.

Emergency crews early in the search reportedly were able to see the top of the boy's head before more sand fell on top of him.

The boy was taken to Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Michigan City, before being transferred to Comer Children's Hospital.

Martin said the boy was finally found when searchers sticking probes into the sand kept hitting air pockets and then finally found an air pocket that contained the boy.

Members of the media and public were being kept away from the scene by emergency responders blocking the entrances into Mount Baldy and the NIPSCO property, which leads to the search area.

Martin said NIPSCO and local construction firms Woodruff and Sons and D & M Excavating helped by providing the machinery used in the search. The Red Cross was at the scene helping to provide food and water to searchers and family members.

Rowe said he doesn't know what the boy was doing when he initially got stuck, but called the incident "baffling."

"I have never heard of anything like this here or at other sand dune parks," said Rowe, who has worked at the lakeshore since 1991.

Rowe said park workers had earlier closed portions of the wooden steps up the slope to replant grass in the adjacent areas, but the rest of the park was open at the time. He said it remains closed this weekend while the investigation continues.

"We won't let people on the dune again until we know what happened and whether it is safe for them."

CORRECTION: In a story Friday about the boy who was rescued after getting trapped in a sand dune at an Indiana park, The Times, relying on information provided by the authorities, erroneously reported the boy's age. He is 6 years old, not 8.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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