Elderly Couple Killed by Swarming Bees

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    A comb of bees.

    An elderly couple was killed and their son was injured in an attack by a swarm of bees at their South Texas ranch while the three were cleaning a small house, family and officials said.

    William T. Steele, 90, and Myrtle Steele, 92, were fatally stung in the Monday attack, daughter-in-law Judy Steele told the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen. Richard Steele, 67, their son and Judy Steele's husband, was discharged from a Laredo hospital Tuesday, his wife said.

    Authorities say the three were cleaning the small house in a highly isolated area of their ranch when the elder Steele sprayed a bees' nest in an effort to wipe out the colony. Instead, the bees swarmed and attacked.

    Steele was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife -- stung about 300 times -- was airlifted to a Corpus Christi hospital 85 miles to the northeast, where she died Tuesday, Judy Steele said.

    Because there was no cellular telephone service on the ranch, Richard Steele had to drive several miles to find the nearest phone to call for help, his wife said. He waited at the end of the ranch road about 20 minutes for emergency crews to arrive, then they had to travel 15 miles to the house.

    Deputy Reyes Espinoza was one of the Jim Hogg County Sheriff's Office deputies to arrive at the scene. He tells the Morning Star that despite the lack of protective clothing, he, Deputy Diaz Morales and Richard Steele found Myrtle Steele alive inside the house.

    "We were getting stung in the process, but we were able to place a blanket over her and take her to an awaiting ambulance. We did what we could," Espinoza told the newspaper.

    They returned to the house and found W.T. Steele already dead. The species of bees involved had not been identified as of Tuesday night, and the nest had not been removed, Espinoza said.

    "My husband feels terrible," Judy Steele said. "He feels that he didn't do enough to help his parents."

    However, "we thank the good Lord that they died together," she said.