SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Crews have uncovered another large hole in a northern Indiana dune that swallowed a 6-year-old Illinois boy as he played in the sand, a national parks official said Wednesday.
The pocket — about 10 inches wide and perhaps five feet deep — is 100 yards from the spot at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore where family members and rescue crews toiled for three hours to retrieve Nathan Woessner on July 12, National Park Service Ranger Bruce Rowe said. The dune, known as Mount Baldy, has been closed to the public since then.
Rowe said crews investigating the site Monday hadn’t even started to use ground-penetrating radar to hunt for more underground hazards when they spotted the hole.
“They found it when they walked up toward it,” Rowe said by telephone from the park in Michigan City, about 55 miles east of Chicago.
The Environmental Protection Agency is using the radar to create an underground map of the dune that they hope will help them determine how Nathan, of Sterling, Ill., became trapped. The hole discovered in the 126-foot-tall sand dune on Monday resembles the pocket that Nathan fell into in size and shape, Rowe said.
It’s hard to tell the depth of the hole because the sand at the bottom is loose, Rowe said. He said geologists, hydrologists and university researchers will analyze sand and debris samples from the hole.
“We want to know, ‘What is the science behind the holes forming?’ so we can understand it, so we know if Mount Baldy is safe in the future or if we have to do something to ensure Mount Baldy is safe,” Rowe said.
The dune will remain closed until officials are confident it is safe, he said.
Doctors put Nathan in a medically induced coma after his harrowing ordeal, and he spent two weeks in a hospital. Doctors have warned that he could suffer lingering lung problems from inhaling sand.