Exterminator says beehive in Rio Rico attack was 'massive'

Exterminator says beehive in Rio Rico attack was 'massive'
(Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)

RIO RICO, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Two men have died in southern Arizona following two bee attacks in three days.

A Sierra Vista man is dead after he was attacked by bees at the Rio Rico Golf Club on Wednesday morning, Aug. 2.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said the victim was identified as 75-year-old Ralph Heintz.

Heintz was stung over 100 times. Hospital workers removed at least 40 stingers from him, Estrada said.

Another man with Heintz was stung numerous times, but Estrada said he will be OK.

Golf course co-owner and general manager Jane Chanik said, "It's horrible. Our hearts are broken."

Chanik and Margaret Wolverton bought the golf course two years ago to try to restore it to its original luster.

The Robert Trent Jones designed course has fallen into disrepair in recent years due to neglect.

"It's been a struggle," Chanik said.

And now, the stinging death has added to the struggle.

"This is a tragedy that no one should have to endure, my heart goes out to his family his friends," she said. "Its a horrible situation."

The man called in to eradicate the hive, Alex Corella, owner of Southwest Exterminating called it massive.

"I call it massive because it was basically top to bottom," he said. "I'm going to say it was a good 15-feet high."

Corella said he believes the hive had been in the tree for years, yet the course owners say it was never noticed.

Chanik said her dog swims in the pond next to the tree.

"He's had his nose in there, I've seen chipmunks in that tree, I've walked it every day, as we all have."

Chanik said she was mowing the grass on the first tee of the course and another was operating machinery in a nearby bunker. It's possible the vibration caused the bees to become agitated. She left the green to go back to the clubhouse for an appointment, waved to the two golfers and drove away.

In a matter of moments, the golfer who survived drove to the clubhouse to say he was stung by bees.

"Out of the corner of my eye I saw the other golfer drive by the window," Chanik said. "After about five minutes, when I didn't see him, I went outside to check."

That's when she found him slumped over in the golf cart.

Efforts to revive Heintz by the Rio Rico Fire Department were futile.

Bees killed a Tucson landscaper and stung two others on Monday, July 31.

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