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Hiking nightmares usually involve large predators like bears and mountain lions, but let’s not forget that it’s often the little things that kill: An Arizona hiker on the South Mountain trail near Phoenix got attacked by a swarm of hundreds of bees and ended up falling down a 200-foot cliff while trying to get away from their stings. Yup, I think we can all join Nicolas Cage in adding bees to the nightmare list.
Both fellow hikers and rangers tried to come to the rescue, but they too were enveloped in the swarm and stung when they got too close. Firefighters had to don bee suits in 110-degree temperatures to even reach the man, who was fitted with an IV and then airlifted to a hospital. He’s listed as being in critical condition, but the 30-year-old solo hiker is expected to survive and recover.
“He probably fell about 200 feet off of that trail and down into a ravine. He was all broken bones and cut up and tangled up in cholla cactus,” said Capt. Lewis Jones of the Phoenix Fire Technical Team.
Phoenix police Officer Craig Churella was the first responder. He tried to reach the hiker but was forced to retreat.
“He was absolutely covered in bees. It was quite the sight. I couldn’t get any closer — they started attacking me,” Churella said.
Ouch, ouch, ouch. You can watch footage of the rescue here (free subscription required). Running into angry, stinging insects can happen pretty much anywhere — but you needn’t lose any sleep over it. Learn the best strategies to survive an attack of stinging insects with our “Survive This” column from BACKPACKER’s May issue.
— Ted Alvarez