TODAY   |  July 16, 2013

Family calls boy’s rescue from sand dune a ‘miracle’

A 6-year-old boy who was swallowed up by a sand dune on the shores of Lake Michigan and spent hours under the sand is recovering in a hospital, and his family is calling his survival a “miracle.” NBC’s John Yang reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to an incredible story we told you about on monday. a 6-year-old boy that survived after being trapped for hours beneath a sand dune . john yang is in michigan city indiana with the latest. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning tamron. this is the national park where the little boy was playing. he is in critical condition in a chicago hospital. the doctors are expecting a full recovery. his family says it's nothing short of a miracle. 6-year-old nathan was with his father and a friend on the shores of lake michigan running up a sand dune . in an instant, he vanished.

>> he was nowhere to be seen. the ground had swallowed him up.

>> reporter: onlookers called 911.

>> my friend's son, he got stuck in a sand tune and he's like under the sand and we can't get him out.

>> reporter: the harder they tried to get him, the farther he slipped away.

>> as they dug he went deeper and deeper. they had no shovel. they just had their hands to dig with.

>> reporter: authorities called in utility crews with heavy equipment.

>> it was controlled chaos. everybody was doing something and accomplishing something.

>> reporter: 11 feet and more than three hours later she spotted the top of nathan 's head. he was still upright apparently having gone straight down. authorities believe a sunken tree may have created an air pocket allowing him to survive. he was air lifted to chicago where doctors were surprised by his condition. breathing on his own.

>> he was acting like a purposeful 6-year-old.

>> reporter: nathan 's grandfather a baptist preacher says it was more than luck.

>> i'm firmly convinced that god intervened in this.

>> reporter: he is on a ventilator while doctors try to get more sand out of his lungs burt they hope he'll be off the ventilator by the end of this week and if all goes well home by the end of next week.

>> that is amazing john. thank