Michigan City Police Chief recounts rescue efforts

It was an extraordinarily busy weekend for the Michigan City Police Dept.

Police Chief Mark Swistek has been handling phone calls and inquiries since emergency crews helped pull six-year old Nathan Woessner out of a hole along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Friday night.

“Originally on the initial dispatch we thought it was going to be a child that was trapped, maybe up to his shoulders, or maybe halfway up his torso. And we were just astonished to learn he was absorbed into the sand,” Swistek said.

Officers like Gregory Radiger and Lendell Hood were some of the first Michigan City police to respond to the scene.

“They did an excellent job of digging in the sand with their hands,” according to Swistek,” they were vital in providing us a reference point as to where Nathan was last seen.” That reference point was then used throughout the entire evening to keep everyone working to free the boy.

Throughout the rescue Swistek said there was a concern if the end result was going to be a recovery of a body, or a rescue. But he noted everyone remained hopeful that Nathan would be found alive.

When the family and first responders’ attempt to dig Nathan out with their hands and shovels proved unsuccessful, machinery from D&M Excavating, Woodruff and Sons and NIPSCO was called in to help extract the boy.

As a precautionary measure crews roped off the area and maintained a constant watch on one another. The entire rescue scene was described as truly “amazing.” In his 21 years in law enforcement, Swistek says he has never seen such a “breathtaking” effort unfold.

“If I wasn't there personally I would have to tell you that this story would be unbelievable.”

First responders like firefighters and police deal with emergencies all the time, but Swistek said very few have ever reached this extent in Michigan City.

“This here is one of those incidents that will stay with you the rest of your career,” Swistek added.

Monday morning Swistek touched base with D&M vice president, Ryan Miller, and Todd Bell from Woodruff and Sons. He said none of the companies are billing the city or the National Park Service for the equipment or personnel used that evening.

On behalf of the citizens of Michigan City, Swistek said he is extraordinarily pleased about the cooperation across the board in the response. Swistek says they will be holding a ceremony for all the rescue workers and welcoming back Nathan and his family to the dunes.

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