Parents of Illinois boy trapped in dune thank rescuers
Written by TOM COYNE, Associated Press   
Thursday, 29 August 2013 06:37

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) — Michigan City firefighter Raymond Celebucki sat in the back of the pickup truck looking at the lifeless body of 6-year-old Nathan Woessner as they raced toward a waiting ambulance thinking about all the things the boy would never get to do after a moment at the beach turned tragic.

"He'd never have his first car. He'd never have his first girlfriend. He'd never have his first day of high school. The things we all take for granted," Celebucki said. "Just to see a young life taken like that, I just can't put it into words."

His train of thought was suddenly disrupted when paramedic Buddy Kasinger asked Celebucki if he was bleeding, pointing out Nathan had blood running on his temple. Celebucki said he wasn't. Kasinger looked at his hands and said he wasn't either.

"He said to me, 'Dead people don't bleed,'" Celebucki said. "After he said that, literally at that moment, Nathan gasped for air and we began doing our thing."

Celebucki called it a shocking turn.

"The feeling that overcame us at that moment was shock: 'My God, he's alive!'" Celebucki said.

Celebucki, Kasinger and more than 130 others involved in Nathan's rescue were recognized Wednesday at a pair of events. Nathan was playing July 12 on a massive sand dune known as Mount Baldy when he became trapped beneath 11 feet of sand for more than three hours. That set off a frantic rescue effort at the Dunes National Lakeshore that drew national attention.

"Your courage, your determination and your faith spared a life," Gov. Mike Pence said during a ceremony at City Hall.

Pence and Nathan's father shook the hands of each person involved as their names were read, while Nathan's mother, Faith, hugged every person at both events. Nathan looked overwhelmed by the crowd of several hundred as he arrived by limousine at City Hall, holding a teddy bear tightly under his right arm. But he looked like a typical first-grader as he sat through the ceremonies, his attention fading with each passing moment.

His parents say he will see doctors again in October, but they say he appears to be back to normal. They say he has no memory of what happened except for what they tell him.

Greg Woessner said he was walking several yards ahead of Nathan and knew right away that something was drastically wrong when he heard Nathan's 8-year-old friend, Colin Karrow, call for help.

"I saw this hole 10 to 15 inches in diameter, perfectly round hole, and you can't see him. You can hear him," he said.

Woessner and Colin's father, Keith Karrow, began digging, then Woessner's wife joined in, while Karrow's wife, Rachel, called 911 and asked people along the beach to help begin digging.

"I know God had his hand around me because I had a sense of calmness," Woessner said.

Soon rescuers and heavy equipment began arriving.

The parents thanked the rescuers at the afternoon event at Blue Chip Casino. Faith Woessner said the family was excited to be able to thank all involved.

"There are no words that we can say that will adequately tell you how much we appreciate all you did for our son and how hard you worked to bring him back to us," she said. "We will always be so grateful for what you gave and you will always be our heroes."

Both parents said they believe God played a significant role in their son's rescue.

"This experience has increased my faith significantly," Faith Woessner said. "God took one of the lowest points of my life and made me realize that if we trust in him and believe in him he'll work in profound ways."

At the event at City Hall, Celebucki gave Nathan a silver bracelet that has the inscription: "All things through God are possible." He said it belonged to his sister, Kathy Murgita, who died two years ago while awaiting a heart transplant. He said he decided to give it to Nathan because he found his rescue so inspiring.

"To see what we saw is beyond any words I can possibly think of," he said. "I did not expect to see a good outcome."


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