Bee sting almost sends driver off Van Stadens bridge

CLOSE CALL: Morne Wentzel after his near- fatal experience at Van Staden. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
CLOSE CALL: Morne Wentzel after his near- fatal experience at Van Staden. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

WHAT could have been a disastrous accident was narrowly averted yesterday when a truck driver went into anaphylactic shock and lost consciousness after being stung by a bee while driving across the Van Stadens bridge in a horse and trailer.

Morne Wentzel’s life was saved by the quick response of emergency services.

Medics arrived on the scene – about 35km west of Port Elizabeth – minutes after receiving a panicked phone call.

They found the truck on the verge of the N2 with Wentzel, who is allergic to bees, slumped over the steering wheel, unconscious.

Wentzel, 43, who lives in Oudtshoorn but drives long-distance for JCP Schlechter Vervoer based in Tsitsikamma, was crossing the Van Stadens bridge en route to Port Elizabeth at about 10am when the bee stung him on the ear, causing him to temporarily lose control of the 36-ton tuck.

“My window was down, so it just flew straight into my head and stung me on the ear,” he said.

“Within seconds, I could barely see and my heart was racing.

“The truck swerved out on the bridge. Luckily, there were no cars next to or behind me as this could have ended differently.

“As the truck swung out, all I thought was that I had to miss the bridge.”

Wentzel, a father of three who has been a driver for 21 years, said he had managed to regain control of the horse-and-trailer truck shortly after it started swerving across the N2.

“All I thought was that I had to stop the truck.

“I could already feel that my chest was closing and I was struggling to breathe. I managed to make a phone call to my boss for help.”

Wentzel pulled over and grabbed his adrenalin injection out of his bag.

“I injected myself in the shoulder, but was just too weak to open the second syringe and jab myself.

“My tongue was swollen and I could barely breathe.

“I lost consciousness and woke up to the medics carrying me out of the truck’s cabin.

“I thought that was it, I was dead. I prayed and don’t really remember anything else.”

A short while later, Metro Emergency Medical Services members arrived.

Truck owner Chris Schlechter said that after receiving the panicked phone call, he had alerted the Nelson Mandela Bay emergency medical call centre for help.

“I could hear on the phone that he [Wentzel] was talking slowly and slurring,” Schlechter said.

“I immediately got the office to call medics and I started racing from our office in Tsitsikamma to Port Elizabeth.

“We are all just so grateful for the fast response of these medics. Their quick thinking saved his life.”

Nelson Mandela Bay EMS operations manager Ashwell Botha, who assisted with the treatment, said units from both the Bay and Sarah Baartman District had been sent to the scene, which was between Jeffreys Bay and Port Elizabeth. “On [their] arrival, he [Wentzel] was struggling to breathe and unconscious,” he said.

“He was unresponsive to initial treatment, but the medics managed to climb into the truck cabin to stabilise and move him.

“More adrenalin injections were given and he started regaining consciousness.”

A grateful Wentzel – who was driving back to Oudtshoorn by 4pm – said he was lucky to be alive. “I would have died. “All I can say to these medics is that I am extremely grateful to them for their professionalism, which saved my life,” he said.

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