Indiana sand dunes collapse: First responders honored for rescue of Nathan Woessner

August 5, 2013 (MICHIGAN CITY, Ind.)

Michigan City, Indiana firefighters call it the Mount Baldy Miracle. While they never gave up digging, first responders were doubtful that Nathan would be found alive when he fell into a hole on the top of Mount Baldy at the Indiana Dunes last month.

They call it the worst four hours of their lives. Firefighters with Michigan City's Engine Company #2 were first on the scene when 6 year old Nathan Woessner fell into a sand dune. Captain Jeff Peckat says the boy's parents were panicking when he and his men arrived.

"They said they could hear him crying and screaming and they said, 'He is down there,' so we started digging and had no idea how big it was going to get," Peckat said.

Placing a marker post where Nathan fell, the firefighters kept digging.

"These guys started out with their hands, shovels then heavy equipment," Michigan City Fire Chief Ronnie Martin said.

An hour in to it, firefighters assumed their efforts had turned into a recovery rather than a rescue.

"It was four hours of misery," said firefighter Brad Kreighbaum. "We kept going and never gave up."

After moving out 400 tons of sand, Kreighbaum was the first to touch Nathan. He was found just five feet away from where firefighters placed the marker post. Kreighbaum pulled out what he thought was a lifeless body.

"I have two boys myself, it's pretty hard to deal with you have to put emotions aside and stay focused."

They stayed focused until they found out that Nathan was alive and has since made a full recovery, three weeks after the incredible rescue. All of Michigan City's firefighters were honored Monday, but for Engine Company No. 2, the first and last on the scene, July 12 is a day that has changed them forever.

"You can't explain the emotions, it is unreal," Kreighbaum said.

The firefighters are anxious to see Nathan. They are likely to get that chance in a couple weeks. The Woessner family and the Indiana governor plan to attend a ceremony on August 28 in Michigan City honoring all the first responders.

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