Man dies in bee attack while hiking near Phoenix

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A Louisiana man has died in Arizona after being attacked by a large swarm of bees while hiking with a friend at Usery Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix, deputies say. An officer who tried to save the man suffered minor injuries.

The incident happened just before 9 a.m. MT on Thursday when 23-year-old Alex Bestler was hiking with a friend on the Merkle Trail within Usery Mountain Regional Park, which is about 26 miles east of Phoenix.

“Without provocation or warning, a large swarm of bees descended on both of them as they continued on the trail,” said Deputy Joaquin Enriquez, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. His friend – who was only identified as Sonya – was ahead of Alex and was able to safely reach a nearby restroom.

A Good Samaritan who was also in the area went back to the area described by Sonya and found Alex covered by bees. “He was not able to approach due to the aggressiveness of the bees,” Deputy Enriquez explained.

Park employees arrived at the scene and made two attempts to approach Alex, but they too were forced to leave due to the hostility of the bees. Sgt. Romer of the Sheriff’s Lake Patrol later arrived and, with the help of firefighters, was able to load Alex onto a UTV even though he was still covered in bees

As the UTV left, the swarm pursued the vehicle, but most of the bees had dissipated by the time they reached the location of emergency services, after which fire personnel began life-saving measures. Alex was pronounced deceased after being rushed to Desert Vista Hospital in Mesa.

Medical staff and sheriff’s detectives examined the body and estimated that Alex had suffered more than 1,000 bee stings, Enriquez said. Sgt. Romer was treated for multiple bee stings as well, in addition to cactus punctures, but was able to return to duty within hours.

It was not immediately known what may have provoked the swarm of bees, and Enriquez said it was not yet known whether the attack involved Africanized honey bees, which are known to relentlessly attack and chase perceived threats in large numbers. This has earned them the nickname “killer bees” even though their venom is no more potent than that of other bees.

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