(LOS ANGELES) — It was a scene straight out of a horror movie — a woman covered from head to toe in a shroud of angry killer bees.
They attack her eyes and nose, crawling into her mouth when she opens it to scream. The stings only intensify as she tries to protect her head.
Horrified people stand around her. Unable to move closer, unable to help.
“It was so horrendous. It was awful. And I felt so powerless. There was nothing I could do,” Cynthia Emmett, an onlooker, told ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.
This was the shocking sight firefighters arrived to on Monday morning after responding to a call about a bee attack in Orange County, California.
A day after the attack, the victim is still in critical condition but is expected to survive, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito told ABC News.
The woman, known only as Maria, was stung at least 200 times by thousands of hybrid Africanized honey bees (Apis mellifera scutellata), also sometimes referred to as “killer bees,” said Nicole Sorenson of Bee Busters, the company called in to remove the bees after Monday’s attack.
These kinds of bees, which make up 70 percent of the bees found in the region, are extremely aggressive and can form their very large nests in proximity to humans, such as in chimneys, sprinkler boxes or — as was the case in this incident — in gas meters, Sorenson told ABC News.
By the time firefighters arrived at the scene of the attack, there was no time to wear protective gear. So firefighters entered the area unprotected, used a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher to spray on the bees, and ran with the woman until they were far enough from the bees, authorities said.
Two of the firefighters were stung badly enough to be admitted to hospital, but they received medical care and were released for active duty the same day.
The victim, Maria, was a housekeeper. The owner of the house, Sara, witnessed the attack and was stung as well, ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles reports.
“She was screaming and I was telling her, ‘Move from the bees. Come over here.,'” Sara said, displaying her swollen arms where the bees attacked her too. “But she was covering her head.”
Sara said she did notice a few bees in the area but didn’t think anything of it, according to the report.
Sorenson of Bee Busters warned that people often don’t take the threat from bees seriously enough.
“North American bumblebees are going extinct, however honeybees are at an all-time high,” she said. “We get a lot of calls from people who want to relocate these bees, and it’s very hard to explain to them that these are the kinds of bees that do exactly what happened to this woman. We want to alert the community that this is a real and present danger.”