BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor boy has been identified as the victim of a deadly dog attack involving a pit bull Saturday in Corinna, according to Sheriff Troy Morton.
Hunter Bragg, 7, was killed at the home of Gary Merchant Jr., 45, on Moody Mills Road after he was attacked by the adult male dog while playing outside, the sheriff said.
“Hunter was playing in the yard with two other children when the attack occurred,” Morton said. “Hunter’s father, Jason Bragg, 35, was at the residence at the time of the attack.”
Deputies responded at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday to a reported dog attack and found the 7-year-old boy deceased.
Merchant had the dog euthanized after the deadly incident, Morton said.
No charges have been filed and no other injuries were reported, the sheriff said.
“This incident remains an active investigation,” Morton said.
“Hunter was loved by so many people,” Jennifer Mcclure, the boy’s aunt, said in a GoFundMe post set up to pay for funeral expenses. “He always had a huge smile on his face and brought joy to [people] everywhere he went. He had a bubbly personality and was always a riot. He has so many people that are devastated that he is gone and so many people that loved him dearly.”
The boy was predeceased by his mother, according to his aunt.
“We all know that his mom is now with him and looking after him up in Heaven,” his aunt said in the post.
Bragg was a student at the Down East Community School in Bangor and school officials were notified of the student’s death by the sheriff’s office, Morton said.
The Bangor School Department community is deeply saddened by the loss of Hunter, Superintendent Betsy Webb said in a Monday afternoon email.
“He was a happy, well-mannered student, and his contagious smile brought joy to all,” Webb said. “Hunter loved school, especially recess and playing outside with his friends. He was kind, respectful, and often was seen skipping down the hallways. Hunter enjoyed reading, writing, and his teacher describes him as a hard worker with a mathematical mind.
“Our condolences go out to Hunter’s family members and friends,” the superintendent said.
Counseling and support has been provided for students and staff throughout the day and will continue as needed. Parents with questions about how to best support their child’s questions and reactions are encouraged to contact the school principal and/or counselor, Webb said.
Brookings-Smith Funeral Home is handling his memorial services.
Morton said he did not know if Merchant was a pit bull breeder, or the relationship between Merchant and Bragg. He declined to answer questions about the investigation — including if the dog was involved in any prior incidents involving law enforcement — saying, “this is a sensitive, complicated investigation.”
The U.S. saw 34 dog bite-related fatalities in 2015, and pit bulls contributed to 28, or 82 percent of the total, according to Dogsbite.org.
There were 360 dog bite-related fatalities in the past decade, between 2005 and 2015, and pit bulls were linked to 232 or 64 percent of the U.S. deaths, the group states. Combined, pit bulls and Rottweilers contributed to 76 percent of the deaths, the website states.
About 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States, and dog-bite related injuries are highest for those age 5 to 9, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The last child in Maine to die in a dog attack before Hunter was 7-month-old Annabelle Mitchell, who was mauled to death on April 12, 2011, in the living room of her house in Frankfort by the family’s Rottweiler, Hannibal.
In addition to Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, Dexter Police Department and Mayo Ambulance and Corinna Fire Department assisted at the scene on Saturday.