Chimney sweep killed by 50 bee stings

Thursday, 22 April, 2004


A chimney sweep died from an extreme allergic reaction within minutes of suffering 40 or 50 bee stings while working at a school, the South Australian coroner found recently.

Detailing the horrific death of Gary Woodcock, 36, in January 2001, coroner Wayne Chivell said the man suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction. Woodcock had been hired by St Peter's College in Adelaide to remove a combustion heater and flue from one of the school buildings. But when he first inspected the job he noticed some bees and told the school he would not continue until the insects had been killed.

A pest exterminator was called and used a smoke device to try to kill the bees with permethrin, a lethal insecticide. But when Woodcock returned to the school and used a cherry picker to remove the top of the flue he and workmate Paul Chadwick were attacked by a swarm. In his statement, Chadwick said when the top of the flue was removed the bees flew straight at them. "Gary was fighting the bees off very violently," he said.

"They were also on me, around my face, around my neck and they were going down my chest." When the men got back to the ground Woodcock was already in trouble. "I saw Gary dry-retching and he was having trouble breathing, going blue. He was on his hands and knees," Chadwick said. He was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital but declared dead soon after.

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