Harbormaster died of self-inflicted gunshot

An autopsy showed that a 52-year-old man who set fire to his Waiehu home last week died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, police said.

Hal Silva, who had been state harbormaster at the Lahaina small-boat harbor, was found dead in the house on Kakae Place in Oceanview Estates after police responded to reports of yelling and gunshots at 6:19 a.m. Oct. 9.

Arriving officers saw the back of the residence engulfed in flames and heard several gunshots coming from inside the house, police said. After extinguishing the flames, firefighters discovered Silva’s remains in the home, along with three dead family dogs and one injured dog.

Preliminary results of an autopsy done Monday revealed the gunshot wound to Silva’s head, said Lt. Jayson Rego of the Criminal Investigation Division. He said Silva was shot with a handgun that was registered to him in what has been classified as a suicide.

Silva’s body was found in the kitchen and dining room area of the house, Rego said.

Police said Silva’s wife, who had been home, called 911 when Silva began dousing the home with gasoline and shooting their dogs with his shotgun that morning. She left the residence with two other family dogs that had followed her out of the house, police said.

Two cans of gas were used as accelerant in the fire, Rego said.

The injured dog was taken from the scene by a Valley Isle Animal Rescue volunteer.

The organization took the dog “Missy” directly to At Home Animal Hospital in Kahului, where she underwent emergency surgery for a bullet wound to her left front leg and blunt object puncture wounds to her chest, according to Coe Huston, clinic administrator. The surgery was performed by veterinarian Carey Benander.

Missy was discharged in good condition from the clinic Thursday and turned over to a family member, Huston said. The dog is expected to make a full recovery.

Valley Isle co-founder Dennis Burns said the organization offered to help pay for the dog’s veterinary care, but the cost was covered by family members.

Police said Silva was suffering from mental health issues that he believed were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from his job. He and another state Department of Land and Natural Resources harbormaster had filed a lawsuit in 2nd Circuit Court, saying the two men suffered carbon monoxide poisoning on Sept. 25, 2010, when another DLNR employee left a gasoline-powered generator running in a closet next to a ventilation intake for an office at the harbor.

The generator had been left running for more than an hour and a half, according to the lawsuit.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.