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    Apr 29, 2014

    Death by a hundred bee stings

    AT 120KG, a pest controller could not run away fast enough from the bees he was supposed to get rid of, and was stung more than 50 times on his head initially.

    Mohammad Sallehen Mohd Ali eventually suffered an accidental death from the venom of the more than 100 stings he sustained, State Coroner Marvin Bay found yesterday.

    The stings were found mostly on his face and upper limbs.

    The court heard that the 30-year-old director of 101 Environmental Services, a pest control company, was sent to investigate a beehive in Sherwood Road with two of his colleagues on Nov 6 last year.

    They had only one protective suit among the three of them, but when his colleagues were opening the back of the van to equip themselves, they were attacked by a swarm of bees.

    They ran away. Mr Sallehen, who was in the van with the windows wound down, also got out and ran towards Tanglin Road.

    Mr Sallehen sought help from security officers at the gate of a house in Tanglin Road, which happened to be Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's house.

    He was still being attacked by a swarm of bees, and was seen gasping for air. Security officers burned newspapers to ward off the bees.

    His face was swollen, his lips were purplish and he had white specks all over his skin and face.

    After being helped to a sheltered area, Mr Sallehen collapsed and became unresponsive.

    He was taken to Singapore General Hospital at about 12.50pm, and was classified as a cardiac arrest case.

    About an hour later, he was pronounced dead.

    The bees that stung Mr Sallehen were giant honey bees, according to Carl Baptista, an expert in the field of applied entomology.

    While the bees seldom attack without provocation, they are one of the more aggressive species of honey bee.

    The killing of a single bee, whether intentional or not, will cause the dying bee to release a chemical signalling alarm. This will trigger an aggressive response from nearby bees.

    "Without being able to run fast enough, he was the focus of the attack as he probably had the most concentrated amount of 'alarm pheromone'," Mr Bay said.

    He added that Mr Baptista's advice that beehives be removed only after sunset, when the bees are back at their hive and less aggressive, should be considered.

    The court heard that when multiple stings occur, death can occur within 15 minutes.

    Mr Sallehen's family members who were present in court appeared sad as Mr Bay read out the details, but did not want to speak to the media.