AUSTIN (KXAN) – A landscape lighting technician died after being flooded by bees in a home in Austin on Thursday, according to a family spokesman.
Franco Galvan Martinez, 53, was suspended by a harness in one of the home’s trees when he inadvertently disturbed a herd and the bees swarmed, a family spokesman said.
“I guess [a] panicking as he tried to knock the bees away from himself, he kicked the ladder away, ”said Joe Maldonado, a family friend and pastor.
Galvan Martinez remained suspended in the air by the harness as the insects attacked.
“The bath was so huge that it literally covered Franco instantly,” Maldonado told KXAN.
A neighbor who did not want to be identified said they heard Galvan Martinez’s screams for help, adding that he appeared to be covered by thousands of bees.
Two of his colleagues below tried to help but were also stabbed, they said.
“They were very desperate,” the neighbor told KXAN. “It was horrible.”
“For over 10 minutes they could only bear to hear [Galvan Martinez’s] anxiety, “said Maldonado.
The Austin-Travis County EMS said paramedics were dispatched to a home around 6 p.m. 17. Firefighters used their hose to blow the bees away and reach the man, according to witnesses.
Maldonado said Galvan Martinez, a married father of two with grandchildren, lived in Seguin.
“He was a very happy man,” said Maldonado, who confirmed that an autopsy of Galvan Martinez is planned.
Family said Galvan Martinez worked for Bill Biggadike & Associates, a landscaping and lighting company based in New Braunfels. The company confirmed Friday that one of its workers died, but had no other immediate comment.
A neighbor told KXAN that residents have been aware of a beehive in the tree for some time but never experienced any problems.
The Austin Code Department said the case was assigned to an inspector after a call Friday. A neighbor said an inspector visited the home and took pictures that afternoon. The department said there are no previous code complaints at the address.
The owner of the home declined to comment when KXAN visited Friday night.
The Austin Code said a city ordinance regulates the maintenance and management of bee colonies within city limits. However, the executive order does not apply to wild colonies in tree caves or stumps. In addition, the city does not provide services for the removal, relocation or extinction of bees due to state regulations.
Professional beehive remover Mike Lopez said those encountering hives on their property should leave them alone and call a professional. In the event of an attack, Lopez said the best advice is to keep moving and seek shelter indoors or in a vehicle.
“Under no circumstances do you stop moving,” Lopez said, adding that bees are attracted to the carbon dioxide emitted when humans exhale, making a person’s mouth and nose particularly vulnerable.
Lopez said bees also release alarm pheromones after stinging a person or animal, signaling other bees to join the attack.
“When you have one, then you have two, then you have 16,” he said. “And it will continue until you have thousands on you.”
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