Air pocket saved 6-year-old boy buried under 11 feet of sand, Indiana fire official says

A fire official says an air pocket saved the life of a 6-year-old boy who was trapped for more than three hours under 11 feet of sand at an Indiana park.

Michigan City, Ind., Fire Chief Ronnie Martin told WSBT-TV on Saturday that firefighters felt the air pocket while poking around for the boy Friday at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore park along Lake Michigan.

He says firefighters then prodded something soft, saw the boy's head and pulled him out.

National Park Service spokesman Bruce Rowe told The News Dispatch of Michigan City that the unidentified boy's family did not initially see him fall into the hole. When they did see him, he was already partially submerged in the sand, and fell further inside as they tried to dig him out, the newspaper reported. The hole reportedly is in an area blocked off for dune restoration.

A Chicago hospital reports that the boy was able to respond to "simple commands" upon arrival. Comer Children's Hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong said in a statement released Saturday that the boy is in critical condition and "has responded well to mechanical ventilation."

Emergency responders reportedly said the boy had vital signs when he was rescued, but could not say whether he was conscious, according to the newspaper.

"He isn't out of the woods yet, but... they found him," Huffman told The News Dispatch. "It is totally amazing. They got him out and rushed him to the hospital," he said.

Michigan City police, fire and Department of Natural Resources used backhoes and other heavy equipment to try to find the child.

Ryan Miller, vice president of D&M Excavating told the newspaper the process was slow, but "safe."

"It's a miracle," he told The News Dispatch of the rescue.

"Our guys just kept on digging. Some guys got out and dug by hand. They kept on going and found him," Huffman told The News Dispatch.

As many as 25 rescue workers were on scene.

Click for more from The News Dispatch of Michigan City.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.