Bridge Hartman, an employee at Cafe Pesto in downtown Hilo, was inside the hallway leading to the restaurant on Saturday when he spied a young girl trying to get away from a middle-aged man.
“It’s his, it’s his,” she said.
Hartmann recently recognized 15-year-old Mikaela Lani Debina from an amber alert that had been sent to people across the Big Island and even on Maui.
Hartman ran to help Debina, wrestled away from her 52-year-old inmate at Kealakehe High School and helped her get back to the restaurant.
Café manager Mario Castillo told Big Island Now: “He brought him here and told everyone to ‘get that guy’.”
People from the establishment on the shore of the bay followed the fleeing man, but were unable to drive him away. They were able to obtain the license plate number of the vehicle he had driven in, and reported it to the police.
This triggered a search operation for Duncan Keloha Mahi, whom police believe is responsible for abducting Debina from a Waikoloa beach on Friday afternoon. They had arrested him by Saturday afternoon.
“He did a really good job,” Castillo said of his employee Hartmann, who went home for the rest of the day after an emotional ordeal. “It was a good day.”
After nearly 24 hours of painful hours, Debina and her family are reunited in Hilo, about 70 miles from where it began in Waikoloa, where the teen is kidnapped by a shirtless man in construction shoes. was taken and a T-shirt was wrapped around his face. He hid everything except his eyes.
The rescue helped bring a tragic end to a terrible, unknown chapter for the community. The news of this came to the family through the police, which they shared with friends, family, members of the media and residents, who came out to the abduction scene to help in the search for the missing girl.
Mikaela’s mother shared with the group in an emotional address, “Mikaela convinced the boy to take her to Cafe Pesto to bring her something to eat.” “He asked her to stay in the car and she passed out; And he tried to scuffle with her and this gentleman saved her.”
The group erupted in cheers and hugs.
“Wonderful. We feel so blessed,” Debina’s aunt Lauren Debina told Big Island Now. “Delighted. We are so grateful to the community that had a hand in bringing him back. thank you thank you thank you.”
The teen was reportedly taken from Anaho’omalu Bay near Lava Lava Beach Club between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Her family said she was with her boyfriend when the man approached them with his knife, face covered, trampling the empty beach in construction shoes.
The area near the scene has been closed due to major renovations taking place at the restaurant. Her prisoner reportedly asked Debina to tie her boyfriend up with blue duct tape and a zip tie, which she did.
He fled from the mobile phones of both the teenagers and assaulted Debina. The family said it took about an hour for the lover to free himself. He reported the kidnapping to police, prompting multiple Amber alerts on Friday and Saturday mornings and a full-scale search by Hawaii police officers and the FBI.
“I knew she would fight,” said Lauren Debina.
The girl, feeling relieved when the family arrived, was with the Hilo police.
“We saw him on FaceTime,” Debina’s mom said before making the drive east. “He’s miles away.”
Police originally described the kidnapper as a local male, about 45-60 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, average build and bare back wearing gray shorts.
On Saturday, they issued an alert that they are looking for 52-year-old Duncan Keloha Mahi, who is wanted with a pending warrant and a kidnapping investigation. Mahi was last seen operating a white Honda CRV with license plate ZAE959 in Hilo city around 11:30 am on Saturday.
By Saturday afternoon, shortly after 4 p.m., the police announced that they had arrested him in Hilo.
“Investigation is on,” the department said. “The police would like to thank the community for their assistance.”
According to state law, kidnapping is a Class A felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison.
Dozens of people gathered in Waikoloa to help find the missing girl ahead of rescue Saturday morning. To help organize the search efforts a tent was set up where large numbers of people waited and shared support. The police had cordoned off the area they were surveying by aerial, helicopter and on foot. Law enforcement planned to begin organizing volunteer teams to search the area after air patrols ended, but Debina’s rescue took place on the other side of the island before those teams could begin.
“I want to thank everyone for coming here to help. I’m glad we didn’t need you,” Police Cpt. Thomas Shope told the crowd. “It’s the best news, that he’s safe.”
The Mayor of the Hawaiian Islands, Mitch Roth, posted the news of the teen’s safe recovery on social media.
“found it!!!” Mayer wrote. “Mahlo Nooyi to our HPD officers, the FBI and our community for working tirelessly to find Mikaela and bring her back safely. That’s the community – and thankfully we have the best community in the world.”
On Saturday morning, when the missing girl’s loved ones had been waiting in the tent since 7 a.m., they shared their grief and fear with each other. Several people had started searching the area on Friday night. Most were in disbelief, as were Mikaela’s classmates Vatia Gionson, Mamming Baixa, Malia Baixa and Elisara Oswalt.
They felt helpless at being unable to do anything for their friend, and after a sleepless night their thoughts began to think about what she might be doing. He described Mikaela as a loving, supportive person with a “beautiful” soul who loved his friends and always wanted to invite more people to his circle. She was the type of person who didn’t want anyone to feel lonely or lonely.
“I’m just scared of losing a friend,” Gionson said. “All I want is for him to return to safety as soon as possible.”
“I think it’s a really bad dream and I’ll be awake in a few hours,” said a distraught Mamming Baixa. ,
“I miss her,” said Malia Baksa. “Her friends and family really miss her. I wish I had hugged her more tightly.”