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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 11, 2001

Big Island woman recovering from dog attack

By Hugh Clark and Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Ha-wai'i — The mother of an 18-month-old boy attacked and killed by a pit bull Saturday on the Big Island nearly lost her life trying to save her child and must now undergo more surgery, police said yesterday.

Luana Moniz, 24, tried unsuccessfully to get the 80-pound dog away from her son, Tyran Moniz-Hilderbrand, then was attacked by the pit bull before the boy's father and a friend wrestled with the dog and killed it with a pick ax.

"The dog was throwing her around," Puna Police Lt. James Kelly said. "She was getting mauled big time. She began to think she would never get loose."

Yesterday, Moniz appeared to be doing better than when she was admitted to Hilo Medical Center in serious condition following the early evening attack.

And at the empty home in the sparsely populated and rugged Hawaiian Acres subdivision in Mountain View, Puna, a bouquet of red roses and different colored cuttings of bougainvillea was placed in the driveway with a hand-written note that simply said, "Dear Neighbor."

Dog bite deaths in the Islands are rare.

Eve Holt, director of community relations for the Hawaiian Humane Society, said events that might have led a dog to such behaviors are too complex to make speculation about what happened fruitful.

"It's a terrible tragedy," she said yesterday. "We just really feel for the relatives of the child."

Holt said she couldn't remember dogs causing deaths in recent years, but in 1981, a 6-year-old boy was killed by a pit bull in Kaimuki.

According to studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 27 people nationwide were killed by dogs in 1997 and 1998. Nineteen of those people, or 70 percent, were children.

Mother, son home alone

At least 25 breeds of dogs were involved in fatal attacks on people during the past 20 years, CDC studies show. Of the 238 fatalities during those two decades, pit bulls and rottweilers were responsible for more than half of the attacks.

Police yesterday said Moniz told them she did not know before the attack that the dog, which belonged to a friend and was staying at her home, had slipped its collar. The animal had been chained.

Moniz was home alone with Tyran. The boy's father, Sandy Hilderbrand, the couple's 3-year-old daughter and a family friend were out together and expected home early Saturday evening.

At about 5:45 p.m., Moniz took her son outside to play. After a few moments, Kelly said, Moniz directed him back inside. "She said: Come on, time to go in now," Kelly said. "And the boy turned and started toddling up the drive."

The dog attacked, Kelly said.

Again and again, Moniz tried to fight the dog away from her son, Kelly said. She was unsuccessful. The dog kept after the child until the little boy was dead.

Then it turned on Moniz.

Moniz fought for her own life, but quickly became aware that the big, muscular dog was too much for her, Kelly said. At that point, Kelly said, the boy's father, the family friend and the 3-year-old daughter arrived home.

Tyran was dead, lying off to the side of the driveway, Kelly said. Sandy Hilderbrand and the family friend ran to help Moniz.

Hilderbrand tried to get the dog in a chokehold, Kelly said. The friend found a pickax.

The friend took aim at the dog's head and pinned the dog to the ground.

Hilderbrand was treated for minor wounds.

Mark Van Doren, a neighbor who lives on Road E, had been asked for help Saturday and made two 911 calls to summon Fire Department paramedics and police.

He went to the home to see if cardio-pulmonary resuscitation might be of help, but by then, the boy was already dead, laying on a blanket inside the home.

"The police and fire guys were very responsive. I would guess the paramedics (from Kea'au) were here within 15 minutes of the call," said Van Doren.

He said he did not believe the victims had a home telephone, not unusual in Hawaiian Acres, which also has no standard roadways or running water for its 1,776 residents, according to the 2000 Census.

Woman's arm 'shredded'

The Acres, one of many Puna subdivisions created around the time of statehood, was carved out of a jungle of 'ohi'a and tree ferns on the slopes of Kilauea volcano.

Van Doren, a Hilo truck driver on medical leave for back surgery, said he found the mother in a state of "total shock." She was bleeding from her right arm, which he described as having been "shredded" while trying to ward off the attacking animal.

"She was just sobbing," he said.

He said he placed the flowers on the driveway as an expression of sympathy.

A veterinarian will conduct an autopsy on the dog to help authorities try to piece together what may have caused it to attack, police said.

Kelly said police will run background investigations on the dog and its owner this week and then determine whether charges should be filed.