Developer Thorndike "Dike" Dame
was shot in the head and seriously wounded while fishing in Mexico over the weekend, WW
Dame —along with his business partner, Homer Williams— has been heavily involved over the past two decades in high-profile developments
in the Pearl District, South Waterfront, and in California and Arizona.
A keen fisherman, the 72-year-old Dame traveled to Lake Huites in the Mexican state of Sinaloa early this month for a 10-day bass fishing trip with another Portland man, Chip Laizure. Laizure says the first seven days of fishing at the lake—which is a four-hour drive from the nearest airport—were uneventful.
Laizure says that all changed at about 3:30 pm on Nov. 14. The two Portlanders and their guide were fishing from a bass boat when Laizure heard an unusual sound and one he'll never forget—a
large-caliber bullet ripping through Dame's cheek.
"The first announcement of anything going on was hearing the bullet strike Dike's face," Laizure says.
Only as Dame fell to the deck of of the bass boat, did Laizure hear the sound of the actual gunshot. As he tried to figure out what was happening, he then noticed a small boat nearby, speeding toward his boat.
"These guys are racing towards us and yelling 'kneel down' and 'get our hands up.' They board the boat and rob us," Laizure recalled. "Meanwhile, Dike is bleeding and gasping for air. We tried to position his head so to keep his airway open."
Two Mexican men boarded the bass boat, one holding a pistol and one holding a rifle with a large magazine attached. After stripping the Americans and their guide of valuables, the robbers demanded to be taken to the remote end of the lake, about 15 minutes away. Laizure says he thought he, Dame and the guide were dead men.
"I pretty much felt like that was going to be the end," Laizure says. "I felt I wasn't going to see my wife and children ever again."
Laizure says as he tried to think of a way to save his skin, he asked the robbers if he could use his hat to put pressure on Dame's wound. (He says the bullet entered Dame's left cheek, tearing a three- or four-inch wound, exited his right jaw and then went back into his right shoulder).
The robbers allowed him to tend to Dame. Laizure says that gesture signaled to him and his guide that they might not be killed after all. They took the robbers to the end of the lake, where Laizure says the two jumped off the boat and disappeared into a jungle.
That left the fishing party more than half an hour from their lodge, with Dame losing blood rapidly. They sped back to the dock and loaded Dame into the back of a pickup for a drive to the nearest clinic, an hour and a half away over poorly-maintained dirt roads.
Dame had brought a satellite phone with him from Portland. And Laizure asked lodge personnel to try to locate an ambulance to meet them as they drove toward a clinic in the town of Choix. As they drove, Laizure tried unsuccessfully to reach his wife in Portland in the hope that she could help identify medical and logistical resources. When that failed, Dame by then barely conscious, was able to show Laizure the cell phone number for Homer Williams by touching his fingers to the keypad.
Laizure called Williams, who notified Dame's family and began frantically trying to make arrangements to get help.
Laizure and Dame arrived in Choix after dark. They located an ambulance but it was not functional. They found a clinic, where staff bandaged Dame's wound and started him on IV fluids.
The men then continued to the nearest city with a hospital, Los Mochis. On better roads now, they sped toward help with a cook from the lodge holding the IV line and Laizure keeping pressure on the gunshot wound.
"It was cold in the back of the pick-up so I tried to hold a blanket on Dike," Laizure says.
At the town of El Forte, an ambulance met them and transported Dame to Fatima Hospital in the city of Los Mochis. They arrived there at about 9 pm, nearly six hours after Dame got shot. "If you saw all the blood he lost in the boat and in the truck, you would not believe it," Laizure says.
"He spent the next couple of hours in surgery and they were able to stablize him," Laizure adds.
In the intensive care unit, Dame regained consciousness but could not speak. "The doctor was talking about how amazing it was that Dike was still alive," Laizure says. "Dike wrote the doc a note saying 'I'm too tough to die.'"
Meanwhile, back in Portland, Williams had arranged for an air ambulance to pick up the men. About 24 hours after the shooting, a jet arrived in Los Mochis and flew the men back to Portland, stopping only in San Diego to clear customs.
Dame arrived in a Portland hospital Sunday night about 11 p.m. and remains there, having undergone surgeries. (The name of the hospital is being withheld at Laizure's request).
Laizure says his friend will have a difficult recovery but the good news is that the bullet did not injure Dame's brain.
Laizure himself is still trying to make sense of what happened but says he's sure of one thing: Dame's is the toughest guy he's ever known.
"I learned a real life lesson in seeing what the determination of an individual can do," he says of Dame. "If it wasn't for his tenacity and endurance, I don't think he'd be alive."
Williams, whose friendship and partnership with Dame goes back decades, says Dame would be dead if Laizure had not been there to keep Dame's airway open and to keep pressure on the wound.
"Chip is a real hero," Williams says.
Laizure says that an official from the U.S. consultate told him that an investigation into the shooting is proceeding but no arrests have been made.
(Photo courtesy of Williams and Dame)