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2nd hole found near Mount Baldy spot where boy was trapped in sand

Mount Baldy IndianDunes National Lakeshore Michigan City. Investigaticontinues dune discover cause hole which 6-year-old boy was buried July 12. |

Mount Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan City. Investigation continues on the dune to discover the cause of a hole in which a 6-year-old boy was buried on July 12. | Guy Rhodes/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 17, 2013 7:44AM

The National Park Service has found another hole in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, close to where a 6-year-old boy fell in and was buried under 11 feet of sand for several hours last month.

Investigators with the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, using ground penetrating radar and a Global Positioning System, discovered the new hole Monday as they were doing research into what caused the hole last month, said Bruce Rowe, public information officer for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Mount Baldy has been closed to the public since Nathan Woessner, of Sterling, Ill., was buried, though much of the dune had been previously blocked off to slow shifting and re-establish dune grass. Nathan, who was buried for 3½ hours, has returned home after being released from a rehabilitation center and, though he needs additional rehab, is expected to make a complete recovery.

Mount Baldy, which is about 126 feet high and covers about 43 acres, remains closed for the foreseeable future.

“We realize that many people would like to visit Mount Baldy and we regret that the area is closed,” said park superintendent Constantine Dillon, “but the fact that we do not know what caused the original hole, and that a new hole has spontaneously appeared, reinforces our concern that Mount Baldy is not safe for visitors at this time.” The new hole is approximately 10 inches in diameter on the surface of the dune and resembles the size and the shape of the hole described by the Woessner family, Rowe said. The hole appeared to be five feet deep but may have been deeper, because the sand at the bottom was very loose.

The hole is about 100 yards east of where Nathan fell in, a spot that is now marked with a white pole. Park staff surveyed the dune late last week, Rowe said, “and they didn’t see a hole like that,” so the new hole most likely developed over the weekend.

The new equipment, Rowe said, will take samples of sand and other material at different spots around and in the depth of the latest hole. The hole from last month was filled in after rescuers freed Nathan, though there was evidence in that spot of an old tree that may have shifted beneath the dune’s surface, causing the hole.

It’s too soon to say whether a tree may also have caused the second hole, Rowe said. Pictures of the dune taken in 1935 have shown trees in the spot where Nathan was found.

The equipment on site, as well as additional gear for a conductivity survey to show any anomalies below the surface, should provide investigators with a 3-D model of the dune. There is no timeline for how long the investigation will last, or when the results will be made public.

“Once you get into the science of figuring this out, it takes a long time to analyze,” Rowe said.

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