Survivors of Phoenix bee attack lucky to be alive

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by Brian Skoloff, Associated Press

Video report by Steve Bodinet

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 31 at 3:00 PM

PHOENIX (AP) -- Two hikers who were attacked by thousands of bees at a popular recreation area in Phoenix are lucky to be alive after another man died in a 60-foot fall while trying to fend off the swarm, authorities said Tuesday.

Fire officials say the three men were attacked about 3:45 p.m. Monday on a trail near Ice Box Canyon in an area of Camelback Mountain.

A passerby called 911 after seeing one of the men, identified as Joshua Ruzsa, of Phoenix, fall about 60 feet off a sheer cliff. The two others, ages 18 and 20, hunkered down in a crevice, still being attacked by the swarm while awaiting rescuers. They remained hospitalized in stable condition Tuesday after being stung at least 300 times each, authorities said. Their identities had not yet been released.

Paramedic Todd Lentz of the Phoenix Fire Department donned a white bee suit and was lowered down by a cable from a rescue helicopter to retrieve the survivors.

"As we were coming up to them, we didn't know if they were unconscious because they were both covering their faces," Lentz said.

He said one man appeared to be in shock, so he administered a shot of adrenaline on the scene.

"I can't tell you how many hundreds of stings he had to his face," Lentz said, adding that the bees continued to swarm by the thousands as he reached the men.

"I had to wipe my face clear so I could see them," he said. "It was a nonstop attack."

Authorities said the men were stung repeatedly for about an hour before being rescued and likely would have died had the helicopter not responded so quickly.

"If we didn't have that helicopter, they wouldn't have been with us, no doubt," Lentz said.

He said Ruzsa likely died from the fall, but an autopsy was pending.

Pilot Jim Lineham of the Phoenix Police Department flew the helicopter in as close as possible, its rotors just about 10 feet from the mountainside.

"They had nowhere to go while being attacked," Lineham said.

Bees inhabit all the mountains around the Phoenix area, and their behavior can be unpredictable so it's important not to overreact, Lentz said.

"Don't fight them, don't swat at them, don't kill them, just lay down," he said. "Up on the mountain, you're at the mercy of nature."

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