Dog attack survivor Walter Ellis in St. Maarten Medical Center
PHILIPSBURG--Walter Ellis (62) was almost mauled to death by three pit bulls at a construction site in Oyster Pond on March 15. The life-altering incident damaged him physically and financially. To date, police and prosecutor have not taken action against the owner of the dogs.
“If I had known that the dogs were there, I would never have entered the premises,” said Ellis, who was hired by the dog owner’s mother to supervise the construction of an apartment on the family’s land in Oyster Pond. “She told me that whenever the construction crew was at work, the dogs would not be there. Her son would take his pits elsewhere, she said.”
On March 15, a Wednesday, Ellis and two construction workers arrived at the gate to continue building the apartment, the walls of which were up and the roof was placed. “There were no dogs to be seen, I thought the coast was clear,” said Ellis, who went up to the house to get cold water for himself and the builders. “Right by the stairs, this pit bull attacked me. Then the two other dogs ran towards me from the bushes.”
Viciously attacked from all sides, Ellis screamed for help. No one came to his rescue. “I could hear my crew yelling in Spanish from afar,” said Ellis, who later learned that the two construction workers had run for their own safety and had climbed onto the roof of the apartment, from where they were yelling at the dogs to let go.
M.R., the owner of the dogs, was not at home. His mother A.R. did not come to the rescue. Fighting for his life, Ellis tried to kick and beat the dogs off. “I'm an avid athlete, I was in good shape,” said Ellis, who was able to deal the dogs some good kicks and punches. “But after pieces were ripped out of my legs, and I lost more and more blood, I felt my strength ebb away. Then one of the dogs bit me in the back of my head and I feared being scalped. I never felt so close to death.”
Miraculously, Ellis managed to get away. He was able to reach his truck. “I wanted to drive myself to the hospital, knowing that there was no time to lose: I was covered in blood from top to bottom,” he said. However, the two construction workers came down from the roof and one of them took the wheel.
When they were about to leave the premises, M.R.’s car entered the gate. “I got out of my car, walked up to him and said, ‘Take me to the hospital,’” Ellis recalled, adding that he vividly remembers the attack, but once in the emergency room, he started to drift in and out of consciousness.
Deep flesh wounds in legs, arms, hands and head, and numerous puncture wounds all over the patient’s body; the emergency room doctor and nurses had their work cut out for them. “They stitched me up really good,” said Ellis, who remained in hospital for 10 days.
A.R., the woman who had hired Ellis as a construction foreman, sat by his hospital bed several times. “She brought me food,” Ellis said. “She said she was sorry for what had happened; however, also stated that she would not take any responsibility. She informed me that police had told her that they could not do anything because this happened on private property.”
Ellis said he cannot believe that the family is not held responsible. “This happened due to negligence on their part. She admitted that she knew that the pit bulls were there, but thought that they were chained up. Incredible! These dogs were not supposed to be there at all.”
Ellis incurred medical bills exceeding US $13,000. “I do not have medical insurance,” said Ellis, a mechanical engineer, who was born in Los Angeles, California, and has lived in St. Maarten for the past 25 years, mainly working in the yachting industry. “i had a good job, but then came COVID, and that was the end of it. I was just getting started again, building my life back up, and then this happened.”
Left with limited use of one hand, but able to walk again, he takes whatever work he can get. “I have to pay the bills,” Ellis said. “But I think this is an injustice to an innocent human being. I should be able to collect damages and not have to pay for this on my own.”
The Daily Herald reached out to M.R., the owner of the pit bulls, who immediately stated that his dogs had been taken to the vet and put down. When asked whether he accepts responsibility for damages incurred, he responded that he did not know that Ellis had no medical insurance. “How can he work if he has no insurance?” M.R. asked. “I will contact him, and ask him to explain his situation.”