Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Dan BerryAnimal Attack Files Special Report
from The Press-Enterprise

      Bees kill Inland man
The 41-year-old was attacked in Banning after he accidentally disturbed a hive.

Thursday, October 5, 2000

By Douglas E. Beeman The Press-Enterprise

BANNING -- A swarm of possibly Africanized honeybees attacked and killed a Banning man this week after he inadvertently dumped dirt on a culvert they used as a hive. It would be the second death from Africanized bees in California.

Don Algiers, 41, was allergic to bee stings and might have died if he had been stung just once, his brother Randy Algiers said. But Don Algiers was stung more than a hundred times about the head -- attacked by so many bees that rescuers had to pluck them from his mouth to render aid, said Randy Algiers, who was among those aiding his brother.

"He just didn't have a chance," Randy Algiers said.

State and local officials said the swarm's aggressiveness suggests the bees were the so-called "killer bees," although officials won't know for sure until DNA tests of the insects are completed next week.

Don and Randy Algiers had been repairing a broken irrigation pipe Tuesday afternoon along Bluff Road above Banning. The whole day, neither brother had seen a single bee. Randy Algiers is operations manager for the Banning Heights Mutual Water Co., which owned the pipe.

Randy Algiers had just left to complete repairs a quarter-mile away when Don, a heavy-equipment operator, dumped a load of dirt and rocks over the side of the road. The load tumbled onto the top of a metal culvert about 20 feet below the road where a colony of bees had established a hive.

"That got the bees going. They swarmed him," Randy Algiers said.

Don Algiers scrambled off his skip loader and onto the bumper of a passing pickup, which tried to carry him to safety. But Don Algiers slumped onto the bumper and hitch of a trailer the truck was towing. The driver stopped and ran up the hill to summon Randy Algiers.

Once Randy Algiers realized the bees had attacked his brother, he summoned his father, and the two of them tried to revive Don Algiers while others called 911. Randy Algiers even tried calling a few doctors who live in the neighborhood but couldn't reach them.

Algiers was taken to San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital in Banning, where he was pronounced dead.

Don Algiers was in poor health -- he suffered from emphysema -- and he didn't carry medicine to counter the effects of the bee venom, Randy Algiers said.

"One or two stings could have taken him -- he got hundreds of them," he said.

Thursday night, after the sun had set and the bees had calmed down, Banning firefighters and a beekeeper returned to the culvert to cover the opening and exterminate the hive. Randy Algiers was there to watch. He grabbed a handful of the dead bees. To him, they looked like common honeybees.

The bee attack frightened some of those who live in the rural neighborhood on the mountain bench above Banning.

Kevin DeLancy is among a group of neighbors who regularly take a morning walk down Bluff Street, past the area where the bees had built their nest. After learning of the attack, DeLancy said, the neighbors gave up their morning walk -- at least until they feel assured that the bees are gone.

"Everybody up here is really frightened," DeLancy said.

Escapees from Brazil, the Africanized honeybees have now settled throughout Southern California, from San Diego to Ventura County. People who live in the region should assume any bee is an Africanized honeybee, said Cal Kaminskas, Riverside County's deputy agricultural commissioner. "People need to be very alert."

Fall is the most dangerous time of the year, because the bees have hives and honey that they will protect aggressively, Kaminskas said.

Africanized honeybees look the same as their European cousins and, individually, their venom is no more potent. But the bees are easily agitated by such things as machine noise and will aggressively chase victims up to a quarter-mile to defend their hives, said Dr. Vicki Kramer, chief of the state Department of Health Service's vector-borne disease section.

One Californian is known to have been killed by Africanized bees. An elderly Long Beach man died last year after he was attacked while mowing his lawn.

Memorial services for Algiers will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont. Weaver Mortuary in Beaumont is handling arrangements.

Algiers was born in Banning, attended local schools and returned to the city in 1997 after a three-year stay in Las Vegas. He had been an equipment operator 22 years.

He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Donna and John Davis of Banning; his father and stepmother, Raymond and Mary Ana Algiers of Casper, Wyo.; six brothers, Randy of Banning, Scott Ryden of Grand Junction, Colo., John Ryden of Loveland, Colo., Eric of Casper, Wyo., Raymond of Phoenix, and Mark of Long Beach; a sister, Vickie Fitzgerald of Green Bay, Wis.; and several nieces and nephews.

The family suggests memorial contributions to Fellowship in the Pass, 650 E. 14th Street, Beaumont, 92223.

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