Bee sting death was misadventure

A man who was attacked by swarming bees died by misadventure, a Coroner’s Jury ruled last week.

The jury heard evidence of events surrounding the death of Lewin Cleveland Ebanks, 86, on 5 May 2004 in West Bay.

Queen’s Coroner Nova Hall read a statement from Paulette Althea James, who worked as a caregiver for Mr. Ebanks and his wife.

Ms James said Mr. Ebanks was on medication for a heart condition, but liked to be active. He would go looking for mangoes at a place he called mango bush.

On the day in question, she went to the clinic to pick up his medication and when she returned he was not home. That was not unusual. His wife indicated he had left about 2pm.

Mr. Hurley Ashley Anglin said that about 4.25pm he went to look for mangoes off Highland Drive. There is a foot track down in the thicket and as he walked he heard someone groaning.

When he got closer he saw a man on the ground with bees covering his hands, face and body. Mr. Anglin tried to get to him but could not.

He ran back home to get a long-sleeve jacket, socks for his hands and newspaper. When he got back he tried to wave the bees away, but with no success. The man was still breathing and still swarmed with bees.

Mr. Anglin said he ran out again and led the Ms James and a police officer back to the scene.

PC Mark Green said that as he entered the woods, he noticed a number of bee colonies at the edge of the beaten path. It appeared they were disturbed.

The man on the ground was not moving and the officer could not get to him due to the number of bees. He ordered a fire to be made.

Mr. Anglin confirmed that a fire was made with thatch and it did cause some of the bees to leave.

Emergency Medical Technician Mark Schutter told the court that the first call received asked the unit to check out an incident in which a man had been stung by a bee. A second call clarified that he had been stung by many bees.

The EMT said he enquired if there was any protocol involving the Fire Department, since if the public could not get through, neither could medical attendants.

At the scene, there was no access for an ambulance and it took about five minutes to get to the patient. When Mr. Schutter saw him, he was on the ground with many bees still around. The man appeared to have been stung hundreds of times.

He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead by Dr. Fiona Robinson. She observed that there were hundreds of bee stings, affecting the face, airway and upper torso.

The autopsy was performed by Dr. Godfrey Blake, who concluded that death was due to anaphylaxis secondary to bee stings.

Dr. John Heidingsfelder, who was appointed government pathologist earlier this year, went through Dr. Blake’s report with the jury.

The coroner asked him if a person would have to have a sensitivity to bees or would a person without such sensitivity be affected by the number.

The doctor said that large number would affect an otherwise normal person perhaps in a similar way.

Anaphylaxis: What it is

According to the website ‘Medline Plus’, anaphylaxis is an severe, whole-body allergic reaction. After an initial exposure to a substance like bee sting toxin, the person’s immune system becomes sensitized to that allergen. On a subsequent exposure, an allergic reaction occurs. This reaction is sudden, severe, and involves the whole body.

Complications include shock, cardiac arrrest, respiratory arrest and airway obstruction.

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