Bees attack after extermination attempt fails

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Signs warning of bees remain under a sign on U.S. Highway 70 on Monday. Bees attacked a truck driver, Saturday, stinging him multiple times.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – A semi-truck driver was attacked by likely Africanized “killer” bees on Saturday after an extermination attempt the previous day failed.

The incident took place at about 6:30 p.m. near the intersection of U.S. Highway 70 and Hollywood Road.

According to the victim’s wife, the truck driver was transferring from his semi to his personal vehicle when suddenly a group of bees near the sign for the Sunrise Village Mobile Home & RV Park attacked him, stinging him between 15 to 20 times.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The bee attack took place under this sign, Saturday.

The man managed to get back into his semi and drove to a different part of the lot. He then got out of his work truck and into his personal truck and waited for police.

The Safford Fire Department arrived at the scene and sprayed soapy water onto the sign for about 20 minutes to end the current threat. The city of Safford installed signs warning of the bee activity.

The manager of the truck shop informed an officer that an exterminator had attempted to remove the bees the previous day but left after being stung multiple times himself. The exterminator allegedly told the manager that he would return Sunday to remove the rest of the bees. Gila Valley Central visited the area Monday and noticed beehive debris and a few bees still present. A city representative said the bee warning signs would stay up as long as bees were in the area.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Bee debris and a few bees were present in the area Monday.

“I guess (the exterminator) stirred them up,” the victim’s wife said. “They were pretty mad.l

The injured truck driver declined medical treatment at the scene and instead treated himself with Benadryl at his own residence, according to his wife.

“He was pretty swollen,” she said. “He got stung in the face a couple of times . . . (We) got some Benadryl in him and just really watched his breathing and watched over him until the next day and he seemed to be doing better.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Valley Central: Africanized bees can be deadly in a swarm.

First responders were stung multiple times in a bee attack Feb. 20 while saving 11-year-old Andrew Kunz, who was stung more than 400 times. Kunz was rushed to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and has since made a full recovery. Graham County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jacob Carpenter was stung about 20 times and deputy Justin Baughman was stung more than 100 times. Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham, who is allergic to bee stings, was hit about 30 times. The first responders were all treated at Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center and released.l

In response to that incident, the Safford Police Department was given a $2,500 grant from Walmart to purchase protective bee suits for its officers and those with the Thatcher and Pima Police departments and Graham County Sheriff’s Office.l