By Mary O’KEEFE
On Sunday a car accident that appeared to be minor turned into a major situation with the two drivers running literally for their lives.
About 3 p.m., two vehicles collided at the intersection of La Forest Drive and Los Amigos Street. The two parties, a 51-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl, got out to exchange insurance information when bees swarmed them.
One of the vehicles apparently hit the trunk of a tree in a nearby yard, which caused hundreds of bees to protect their hive. When the bees began to swarm, the 51-year-old woman ran to a nearby home and jumped into a pool. She stayed under the protective water until help arrived.
The 17-year-old began to run west on Los Amigos Street with bees swarming her.
“We saw bees everywhere,” said Jack Snyder, a resident on Los Amigos Street. Snyder was in his home when he heard the girl screaming.
“I had never heard a scream like that before,” he said.
Several neighbors had come out to the street when they heard the accident and the bees began chasing them as well. When Los Angeles County Sheriffs from the Crescenta Valley station arrived, they found a scene they would not expect at a vehicle accident.
“My partner and I were the first responders,” said Dep. Pelaez. “It was havoc everywhere.”
Pelaez and his partner Dep. Pluimmer immediately saw the 17-year-old girl sitting on a curb down the street from the accident.
“She was covered in bees,” he said.
Though not a common sight, the deputies reacted quickly and grabbed the fire extinguisher out of their patrol unit. Pelaez sprayed the girl getting the bees to leave. Neighbors then told the deputies there was another victim, the woman, in a backyard pool. Pelaez stayed with the girl as Pluimmer went to help the woman.
“She was going in and out of the pool,” Pelaez said. The bees were still hovering and waiting for her to exit the pool.
“When my partner was going over to the [woman], I ran out of the fire extinguisher [spray] but there were still bees around [the girl],” he said.
Pelaez asked Snyder to get a hose and spray water on the girl.
“There were bees everywhere, in her hair, and she was still screaming,” he said. “Bees were coming out of her mouth.”
“She was covered in [stingers],” Snyder said. “It looked like acupuncture.”
Pelaez has been a patrol officer for 14 years. “I have never experienced anything like that before,” he said.
Snyder said the victim had begun to quickly swell from the stings when Los Angeles County Fire Dept. paramedics cared for her. Both women were transported to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.
Firefighters sprayed foam on the tree trunk to help control the bees as they awaited Mike’s Spray and Tree to arrive to abate the bees.
Although these have not been identified as Africanized bees, their behavior does appear to be common to that species, according to Dr. Armand Dorian, emergency doctor at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.
Dorian was not on duty when the women were brought in, but is well aware of the effects of bee stings and behavior of Africanized bees. He had seen many patients who had been attacked by bees and had made Africanized bees part of his research while in Costa Rica.
Dorian explained that when the a honeybee hive is disturbed a few come out and may go after a person, but normally will not chase.
“When you stir up [Africanized] bees, 10 to 20, they attack around hives,” Dorian said. “They do not quit, they do not stop.”
He added that bee stings fall into three general symptoms: The first is a sting that gives a localized allergic reaction that can cause puffiness in the area of the sting. The second symptom is with about 1% of people who get stung, he said. They will have a severe reaction, even anaphylaxis, which is a severe whole body allergic reaction that can lead to death. The third is itching in the area of the sting, which can result in a of the break the skin and cause infection.
“With Africanized bees there is a fourth and lethal [effect] just by the sheer number of [stings] introducing toxins into the body,” he said. “[A lethal level on average] is 10 bites per pound of body weight.”
That would mean hundreds of stings.
“Just imagine if you have been stung over 300 times across your body surface area,” he said.
Dorian advised anyone who finds themselves in a position of being chased by aggressive bees to just “run.”
“The most important thing, if you are swarmed or attacked, is to get as far away from the bees as possible,” he said.
Although the bees have been known to follow a victim as far as two miles, Dorian said the advice is the same.
“You want to run, and run and run,” he said.