Last week, family and friends gathered to thank the rescue workers who saved 6-year-old Nathan Woessner from being buried alive in a sand dune.
“We’re just very, very grateful for everything they did for [him],’’ his mother, Faith Woessner, told NBC News’ Today show. “We can’t express our gratitude enough for the rescuers, and the nursing staff and everyone that’s helped bring Nathan back to us. We’re thankful to God for being there.”
On July 12, Nathan and his friend Caleb were walking on Mt. Baldy, a popular recreation spot in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, when Nathan suddenly dropped into a sinkhole.
Caleb screamed for their parents who rushed to the site and started digging. Friends and strangers came to help, but even though they could hear him, they couldn’t pull him out. More than 50 rescue workers, firefighters and private contractors arrived at the site just as Nathan disappeared completely.
"We were prepared for the worst,” Nathan’s father, Greg Woessner told CBS News. “One way or another he was coming home with us."
Using backhoes and shovels, the rescue workers continued digging. Shortly after 8 p.m., they pulled Nathan out from under 11 feet of sand. At first, he was unconscious. But inside the ambulance, he gasped for air and started crying. Paramedics rushed him to Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital where doctors put him in a medically induced coma and cleaned his lungs with saline.
He left the hospital two weeks later, after undergoing physical, occupational, and speech therapy. He’s scheduled to return for more rehab soon. His parents said his memory of the event is distant and partial, so they’re telling him what happened in small bits. In the meantime, he’s back home, where he started first grade a few weeks ago.
Geologists theorize that a tree trunk decomposing under the dune created the void that swallowed Nathan. Despite being underground for more than 3 hours, he didn’t suffer any eye or brain injuries.
"Many, many nights I lie awake thinking, praying and thanking God for what he did for our family,” Faith Woesnner said on CBS. “It was God’s miracle.”