A Hermiston man has spent most of his time at a hospital in South Africa this month after his daughter and grandson were trampled by a giraffe on Sept. 3.
Dr. Katy Williams and her son Finn, 3, were seriously injured but their health has been improving, Jack Standish said.
Standish, who moved to Hermiston with his late wife in 2005, said Katy and Finn were going out to meet Katy’s husband Sam Williams on Sept. 3 as Sam returned from a run. Often Katy and Finn would meet up with him inside the large, fenced estate where their home was located before walking back together. They are both scientists (Katy specializes in hyenas and Sam in big cats) and have been in South Africa for research.
Katy and Finn walked into a clearing to see a tower of giraffes, and before they had time to react, one charged and began kicking them.
Sam, returning from his run, saw the attack and was able to scare the giraffes away by yelling and waving his arms. Standish said the giraffe that attacked was a mother with a young baby and was likely protecting her baby from a perceived threat.
“We hold no malice toward the giraffe,” Standish said, calling the incident an “accident of nature.”
Katy and Finn were flown to a hospital in Johannesburg, where doctors were not sure either one would survive the night. The two could not have gotten better care, Standish said. After he got the call about the attack, he and his son David, who is serving in the U.S. Navy, rushed to Johannesburg.
“We got there and Katy was under a deep coma and looking pretty rough with scrapes and bruises all over her body,” he said.
She woke up later, however, and her broken bones and punctured organs are healing. Meanwhile Finn is finally able to open his eyes and, while not speaking yet, is reacting to his surroundings “as he should be.” He will be moved soon to a rehabilitation center for children to help him get back up to where a three-year-old should be developmentally.
“There’s a lot of hope,” Standish said. “His family and doctors know he’s going to get well.”
Standish said as the incident has been reported around the world there has been some judgment, but both Katy and Sam have doctorate degrees in animal science and they have been working with animals in Africa for years. The fenced estate where they lived doesn’t have lions, cheetahs, rhinoceroses or other animals considered particularly dangerous and giraffes — which Katy could not see until it was too late — are not known for attacking humans.
Standish said the family, including Katy, asked that the giraffe not be euthanized, and it was moved to a location away from people. Unfortunately, the baby giraffe did not survive the move.
“We were so extremely sorry to hear that,” Standish said. “It brought tears to my eyes, because we all love animals.”
Two GoFundMe accounts (one for British pounds, since the Williamses got their advanced degrees in England, and one in American dollars) have been set up to help the Williams family cover their extensive medical bills. The American one can be found at www.gofundme.com/finn-amp-katy-williams.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.