A Los Angeles Police Department volunteer is on the mend and recovering in the hospital after he was attacked by a swarm of bees in Encino Monday.
The volunteer, identified only as Gary, was stung anywhere from 50-100 times as he tried to help with traffic control in a residential neighborhood that was actively being terrorized by a swarm of aggressive bees.
Gary is an Air Force veteran who has been an LAPD volunteer for nearly 18 years, according to his son, Daniel. The terrifying attack happened around 5 p.m. on the 17100 block of West Adlon Road.
Daniel watched the events unfold on live TV, witnessing his father be swarmed by the bees and ultimately falling to the ground face-first.
“It was gut-wrenching,” Daniel said. “I couldn’t even believe it. It looked so painful.”
He described the feelings of helplessness as he watched his father bleed from the face as he tried to put distance between himself and the swarm.
“It’s easy to criticize after the fact, but at the time, I’m sure everyone was doing the best they can or was not sure what to do, but it was just horrible,” Daniel said. “I was yelling at the screen going, ‘Why aren’t people helping? This is ridiculous. Go out, please help.'”
The Los Angeles Fire Department was the first to respond to the scene for a report of a swarm of bees that had stung at least one person. The Police Department later responded and began closing down roadways and urging residents to stay indoors.
Video from Sky5 showed Gary directing traffic and helping a motorist before he was forced to retreat after several bees began attacking him, stinging him several times in the face and eyes. He swatted at the cloud of bees, but lost his balance a fell hard onto the roadway. Immediately he began bleeding and tried to compose himself to get away.
Gary could be seen walking down the block with an LAFD fire truck following him close behind as they waited for a break from the bees and an opportunity to help.
He was transported to the hospital for treatment and a local beekeeper was able to move the problem bees away from the residential neighborhood.
Gary remains in stable condition on Tuesday night, but the impact of the hard fall left him with broken bones in his face.
“He’s got a triple fracture above his eyebrow, on the nose region, I think that’s where a lot of the blood came from and just under his eye socket as well,” said Daniel.
Daniel said his father was given anti-venom and will remain hospitalized for a few more days to ensure his system recovers from the attack.
Since Gary is a volunteer, he’ll be responsible for his medical bills. Volunteers must sign a waiver and they are not covered by the city in situations like this.
“The police department was like, ‘Oh yeah, no, he’s a volunteer and we’re not liable,’” Daniel said.
The son said he hopes people will reciprocate his father’s willingness to step in when called upon.
“He wants to give to his community and he’s a veteran, so he’s strong-willed, well-trained, and he does his best,” said Daniel. “He’s independent, very friendly, always willing to lend a helping hand, will talk to anybody.”
A GoFundMe campaign was created to help Gary with medical expenses as he recovers.
The beekeeper who responded to the scene said the behavior of those bees was unusual, as they are not typically aggressive. He theorized that the hive may have started in a home’s attic or wall space and had been growing for quite some time.
Although the large swarm of bees was removed, experts said due to the historically wet winter in SoCal, there’s been a lot of new growth, which means more pollen and more active bee colonies.
Bee and wasp stings can cause major health complications and even death for those who are allergic or have other medical conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 62 people die from bee and wasp stings in America each year.