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updated: 1/20/2014 8:27 AM

Mount Baldy remains closed 6 months after collapse

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  • Environmental Protection Agency scientists use ground-penetrating radar equipment at Mount Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in August 2013, near Michigan City, Ind. They were gathering data to determine the safety of a northern Indiana sand dune that collapsed onto a 6-year-old Illinois boy.

      Environmental Protection Agency scientists use ground-penetrating radar equipment at Mount Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in August 2013, near Michigan City, Ind. They were gathering data to determine the safety of a northern Indiana sand dune that collapsed onto a 6-year-old Illinois boy.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hasn't determined if and when it will reopen a popular sand dune along Lake Michigan after part of it collapsed and buried a young boy under 11 feet of sand more than six months ago, a park spokesman says.

Scientists still have not determined why part of the dune known as Mount Baldy collapsed July 12, burying then-6-year-old Nathan Woessner of Sterling, Ill., for more than three hours before rescuers freed him. The dune has remained closed to the public since then.

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Last month, the park received all of the data from a ground-penetrating radar sweep after the collapse, spokesman Bruce Rowe said.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff walked every inch of Mount Baldy with the radar equipment, looking for any additional voids or anomalies below the surface like the one Nathan survived in. They found a second hole, about 10 inches in diameter and about 5 feet deep.

Now it is up to a group of geologists, from within and outside of the National Park Service, and other experts to examine the data and try to determine a cause.

"There is no time frame," Rowe told The (Munster) Times. "We want to make sure the science is solid. This is new to science. We haven't found anything in any literature about it."

If the experts find a cause, they'll then decide what can be done to prevent it from happening again.

Also weighing on any decision to reopen the dune to the public will be a consideration of the legal liability of the National Park Service if Mount Baldy were reopened and another collapse involving park visitors occurred, Rowe said.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which owns and operates nearby Indiana Dunes State Park, also is eager to learn more about the collapse, spokesman Marty Benson said.

"The safety of our guests is of utmost concern," he said.

Lifeguards scoured state park beaches looking for holes following the July 12 incident and staff have continued to survey the area, Benson said. Nothing indicating any sort of void, hole or anomaly has been found.

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