Boy swarmed by bees taken to Phoenix hospital

Contributed Photo/Courtesy 3TV/CBS5 News: From left, grandparents Petrea and Kreg Kunz watch over 11-year-old Andrew Kunz at the Phoenix Children's Hospital. Andrew was stung more than 400 times in a killer bee attack. The story of his rescue ends our list of our feel-good stories of 2018.

Child stung more than 400 times

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – An 11-year-old boy who was swarmed by likely “killer” Africanized bees early Monday evening is being treated at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital for more than 400 stings.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Andrew Kunz was still in the pediatric intensive care unit but has had his intubation tube removed and indicated he was hungry, according to his grandmother, Petrea Kunz. She said he is very traumatized by the event, but he is responding well to treatment and they are hopeful he will be transferred to a step-down room later that day or the next. Petrea considers Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham, who pulled Andrew out of harm’s way, as their savior and that Andrew would have died in that wash if not for his and other first responders’ efforts.  

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Petrea Kunz: Andrew Kunz had to be initially intubated after being stung more than 400 times. He is also allergic to all stinging insects.

Two members of the Graham County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Jacob Carpenter and deputy Justin Baughman, along with Bingham were taken to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for multiple bee stings they suffered while rescuing Andrew. The first responders were treated and released. Carpenter was reportedly stung approximately 20 times, Bingham was hit 25-30 times, and deputy Baughman was stung about 100 times. The following day, Gila Valley Central caught up with Baughman who said he was no worse for wear. He declined to comment further at that time saying only that he was just doing his job.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The beehive was located in this rusted car used as erosion control.

Graham County Dispatch directed first responders to the area of a residence in the 1600 block of Sunset Boulevard at about 5:26 p.m., Monday, after Petrea Kunz called regarding her grandson, Andrew Kunz, being attacked by bees. The area is in between Airport Road and E. Graham Canal Road. 

The danger for Andrew was intensified because he was previously stung more than 90 times by ants when he was in Kindergarten and was found to be allergic to any stinging insect and carried an Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EpiPen) with him.

“He is actually our little miracle guy,” Petrea said. “He is still hurting. They are going to check his eyes. They think they may have been scratched from the stingers, (and) we’re still watching to see if the venom is attacking the red blood cells and if its attacking his muscles.” 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Petrea Kunz: Andrew Kunz suffered more than 400 bee stings.

Petrea said Andrew yelled for help as he was being attacked but they couldn’t find him. At that point, a 9-year-old boy arrived and said he was with Andrew when they were attacked by bees in a gully in the desert behind the residence.

Jon Johnson/File Photo: Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham is being hailed as a hero.

After calling 911, Petrea said Andrew called her phone and was telling her, “help me, help me. The bees are killing me.”

She then was able to hear the general direction where he was and could see he was having difficulty climbing back up the hill to the residence. Officers then arrived, and Petrea directed them to her grandson, but they could not reach him. Bingham arrived soon after and helped Andrew away from the area.

“Everybody did a great job,” Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred said.

The bees had taken up residence in an old, rusted out car that was presumably placed in the gully with other vehicles to act as erosion control. It was later learned that the boys had been shooting a BB-gun at the car and the sound of the BBs against the rusted metal is believed to be what set the bees in attack mode.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The beehive was located in this rusted out old car.

Sgt. Carpenter and deputy Baughman were the first on the scene and spotted Andrew in the gully but were unable to get to him as the bees began to attack them as well. They retreated approximately 150 feet from their previous viewpoint and they and other deputies guided Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham, who was not in a bee suit, to where the boy was engulfed in bees. Bingham picked up Andrew and tried to get him away from the bees.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: This bee was located near where the incident took place. There are still numerous bees in the area foraging for food, but they are not swarming.

“He was kind of disoriented and just kind of standing there, (so) I grabbed him by the belt and the arm and we started running down the wash,” Bingham said. “I told him ‘we have to get out of here. Nobody can help us where we are,’ so we tried to climb the hill but he didn’t have the strength to do it, and I couldn’t carry him up it. We continued down the wash until we got to the fire training center.”

It was roughly a 200-yard trek through the desert to E. Graham Canal Road, where the Safford Fire Department Training Center is located. While en route to the road, other firefighters in bees suits arrived and began to battle the bees. Andrew was then loaded into a Lifeline Ambulance and taken to MGRMC.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham managed to get Andrew Kunz to the Safford Fire Department Training Center, which just happened to be at then end of the wash where the attack took place.

“What Clark did was exactly what needed to be done to get him (Andrew) away from them,” Petrea said. “Clark Bingham is very much our hero. He was willing to give his life for Andrew’s. That’s the true meaning of a hero.”

After initial treatment, Andrew was intubated and flown to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Bingham, Carpenter and Baughman were all treated for bee stings and released. The 9-year-old boy was taken to MGRMC by his family, where he was treated and released. Additional first responders at the scene included the Safford Police Department and a rescue aid team from Freeport McMoRan Inc., which transported Bingham to the hospital.

Bingham said he is also allergic to bees and the last time he was stung he began to swell up pretty bad. This time, the treatment of Benadryl and a steroid at the hospital stopped that from happening.

“I am grateful for that,” he said.

Safford Fire used soapy water on the hive and extinguished as many as they could. The following day, Mark Curley, owner and operator of Rattlesnake Exterminating, went to the site and treated it with chemicals so the bees wouldn’t return. When he arrived, he reportedly saw hundreds of bees still around the hive.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Rattlesnake Exterminating went back the next day to make sure the remnants of the hive didn’t restart the colony.

“He just wanted to make sure that he took care of those for those in the neighborhood and the family,” Curley’s wife, Wendi Curley said. “There’s a lot of kids and people up there, so he just wanted to check it and make sure the bees wouldn’t come back.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: This different type of bee was found across the street at a residence under renovation.

The unseasonably warm weather has brought the bees out to thrive and Rattlesnake Exterminating has been seeing an increase in calls.

“They’re starting to come out, so be careful.”

The local branch of Sodalicious is doing a fundraiser to help the family with expenses. Petrea said Andrew loves the beverage store and enjoys the Eagle Scout drink. She added that the whole family is grateful for all the well wishers and prayers and credit that for his speedy recovery.

The fundraiser at Sodalicious will be Monday, Feb. 27. The location will donate 10 percent of its sales for the entire day to the Kunz family. Additionally, it will have  firefighter’s boot on the counter for donations, which will all go toward the family, according to manager Hope Maxwell.

“With the way that he is healing, we truly feel the prayers of the community,” Petrea said. “We are so grateful he is alive, again, that’s Clark Bingham. He truly is on a huge pedestal in our family, as a matter of fact, we have decided that he’s part of our family whether he likes it or not.”

What to do if attacked by Africanized honeybees:

1. Run away quickly. Do not stop to help others. However, small children and the disabled may need some assistance.

2. As you are running, pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face, but make sure it does not slow your progress. This will help keep the bees from targeting the sensitive areas around your head and eyes.

3. Do not stop running until you reach shelter, such as a vehicle or building. A few bees may follow you indoors. However, if you run to a well-lit area, the bees will tend to become confused and fly to windows. Do not jump into water. The bees will wait for you to come up for air. If you are trapped for some reason, cover up with blankets, sleeping bags, clothes or whatever else is immediately available.

4. Do not swat at the bees or flail your arms. Bees are attracted to movement, and crushed bees emit a smell that will attract more bees.

5. Once you have reached shelter or have outrun the bees, remove all stingers. When a honeybee stings, it leaves its stinger in the skin. This kills the honeybee so it can’t sting again, but it also means that venom continues to enter the wound for a short time.

6. Do not pull stingers out with tweezers or your fingers. This will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Instead, scrape the stinger out sideways using your fingernail, the edge of a credit card, a dull knife blade or other straight-edged object.

7. If you see someone being attacked by bees, encourage that person to run away or seek shelter. Do not attempt to rescue the person yourself. Call 9-1-1 to report a serious stinging attack. The emergency response personnel in your area have probably been trained to handle bee attacks.

8. If you have been stung more than 15 times or are feeling ill, or if you have any reason to believe you may be allergic to bee stings, seek medical attention immediately. The average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight. This means that although 500 stings can kill a child, the average adult could withstand more than 1,100 stings.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture