61-Year-Old Swarmed by Yellow Jackets, Killed in Backyard

ARKADELPHIA, AR – A 61-year-old man has died after being attacked and swarmed by yellow jackets.

William “Bill” Lewis (61) was killed Sunday (10/5) night by a swarm of yellow jackets.

Lewis’ family says the yellow jacket hive was hidden underground behind their Arkadelphia home in Clark County.

They say he was behind his Arkadelphia home Sunday when he fell onto the underground nest.

An Arkadelphia Police Department incident report says a friend of Lewis called for help.

Sgt. Don Cleek got there first. He says the yellow jackets were swarming around and crawling on Lewis.

“He was face down,” Sgt. Cleek explained. “I turned him over and tried to check for a pulse and breathing. Got none so I attempted to get an airway open and start CPR.”

All the while, he was willing to brave the attacks and stings himself.

“They were still swarming around,” he showed. “I had them flying inside my glasses, messing with my ears. I was telling myself don’t swat, don’t swat.”

He now realizes the danger he willingly put himself in as he tried to save the 61-year-old.

“I’d rather go into a warehouse knowing there’s a man with a shotgun in there wanting to shoot me than deal with that again,” Sgt. Cleek remarked.  “It was a little bit scary.”

Ultimately there wasn’t anything paramedics or other officers could do. The County Coroner believed Lewis’ airway had swollen shut from anaphylactic shock.

“It is unfortunate,” Sgt. Cleek remarked. “I’d suggest everybody keep that family in your prayers because I know they’re hurting.”

Lewis’ sons have since pulled the hive out and even sprayed the area but two days later the yellow jackets were still swarming.

Quick tips:
Late summer and early fall is when the number of yellow jackets are at the highest.
They’re also more aggressive.
They don’t lose their stinger when they sting and carry a potentially deadly venom.

“The buildup of venom could potentially be toxic and fatal,” explained County Extension Agent Amy Simpson. “If you are attacked by yellow jackets the best thing to do is cover your face – the sensitive areas of your face – and slowly walk away.”

For a full interview with Simpson on explaining what to look out for and what to do if you encounter yellow jackets click here.

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