UPDATE: Man killed in bee attack on southwest side identified

Published: Jul. 31, 2017 at 2:01 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 1, 2017 at 3:20 PM MST
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(source: Tucson News Now)
(source: Tucson News Now)
The exterminator said this was only part of one of two hives found Monday. (Source: Greg...
The exterminator said this was only part of one of two hives found Monday. (Source: Greg Williams).

PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - The man killed Monday morning, July 31, in a bee attack on the southwest side of Tucson has been identified as 48-year-old Danny Martinez.

The Drexel Heights Fire District said Martinez died and two other people were injured in the incident in the 6600 block of Camino De La Tierra.

DHFD spokeswoman Tracy Koslowski said a landscaper was spraying near the yard when Martinez, also a landscaper, was attacked by bees.

She said the landscaper, who was spraying, tried to help his co-worker but the bees were too much. He ran from the bees to save his own life.

So did the man who lived at the home, according to Koslowski. She said he was treated at the hospital for 100-200 stings to his upper body and head.

Seven firefighters were hurt or stung while responding to this emergency, according to DHFD Capt. Jon Graves.

The first responders rushed into what Graves described as a swarm of potentially 100,000 bees with only their turnout gear to protect them.

"Even though we were wearing turnouts and a face shroud and helmets, bees were still attacking us as we were trying to remove the victim," Graves said.

"Even with gloves, I was stung several times," he said. "I don't know how they got into my gloves but they did."

Graves was stung on the hand, ears and neck. He said the crew braved the bees because they believed there was a good chance of saving someone's life.

"It's the risk we assume to be able to perform a rescue," he said.

"They're very protective of what they've built so the littlest thing can set them off. You go from calm hive to attacking hive in a matter of seconds," Greg Williams, owner of Desert Swarm Bee Removal, said.

Marianne Hernandez, who lives a few blocks away from the hives, said there were so many bees buzzing around her backyard last weekend that she didn't feel safe.

"I had my great-grandkids, a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old, and I couldn't even have the babies out there because it wasn't safe for them," she said. "I was killing one and another one was coming."

Hernandez said she never found a hive on her property so she wasn't sure who to call about bees.

Firefighters in Drexel Heights will investigate bee calls, according to Graves. He said it's important for anyone reporting bees to provide as many details as possible so that firefighters can respond appropriately.

A bee sting warrants a much different approach than a bee swarm. If it's not an issue for firefighters, Graves said they will recommend local beekeepers or exterminators to help with the situation.

Williams said he was already near the south side when the fire department told him that what was happening near Valencia Road and Camino de la Tierra was a priority.

Williams said the honeycomb was visibly hanging from the eve of the roof. He said an open hive like that is especially dangerous.

"Rather than having to funnel out through a small hole in an enclosed space, they're able to literally jump at you," Williams said.

We asked the Pima County Sheriff's Department if the owner of the home could face negligence citation as the hive was growing there for more than a year, but they said no criminal charges will come from this. Meanwhile, code enforcement told Tucson News Now homeowners do have a responsibility to maintain their property so that they're free of pests.

For the safety of everyone, Williams exterminated both of the hives.

"Applying a kill on contact insecticide to the beehive itself," Williams said.

Williams estimated the two hives his team found at the house weighed close to 300 pounds. He said June through October is busy for his company because it's the time of year when bees are most aggressive.

Fire crews say if you start to get stung by a swarm of bees it's best to run, and get inside a car or a home as quickly as possible.

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