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July 16, 2013

All involved agree, sand dune rescue 'a miracle'

CHICAGO (AP) — One minute, 6-year-old Nathan Woessner was scampering up a massive dune in northern Indiana with his dad and a friend. He was gone the next, without a warning or sound.

More than three hours later, rescuers pulled Nathan out from under 11 feet of sand on Friday. He showed no signs of life: He was cold to the touch, had no pulse and wasn't breathing. His limp body was put into the back of a pickup truck, which started toward a waiting ambulance.

The plan was to take him to the hospital rather than the coroner's office, even if he was dead, in order to "give the family and rescue workers hope," La Porte (Ind.) County Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Huffman said Monday.

As the truck bounced over the dune, a medic noticed something astonishing: The boy took a breath. Then, a cut on his head started bleeding. The jolt apparently shocked Nathan's body back to life, Huffman said. Nathan was rushed to the hospital and was crying in the emergency room when Huffman arrived a few minutes later.

"Man, I tell you that was such a great feeling," Huffman said. "This is not something that I as the chief deputy coroner get to report that often. It's an absolute miracle this child survived."

Nathan, of Sterling, Ill., remains in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, but he is expected to recover and be released in 10 to 14 days, Dr. Tracy Koogler said Monday. Of greatest concern is his lungs, as the amount of sand he breathed in could lead to asthma-like symptoms, she said.

Don Reul, Nathan's grandfather, was getting ready for bed after a long day of tooling around on motorcycles in New York state with his wife and another couple when the phone rang. On the other end was the "hysterical" voice of his daughter, Faith Woessner.

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