5 December 2005


DEVOTED James Carmichael told yesterday how he was powerless to save his wife from a swarm of killer African bees.

The retired Scots engineer wept as he recalled how he lay helpless with a broken leg while wife Mariana was stung to death by the bees just a few feet from him.

Tragedy struck when Mariana, 60, crashed their Jeep into an electricity sub-station near their home in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The impact disturbed a huge hive of about 250,000 African killer honeybees on the top of the building.

James, 67, was flung clear from the car, his leg broken in three places. As he lay helpless, the bees attacked him and Mariana.

He was stung almost 400times and suffered kidney failure because of the toxins.

But he is now slowly recovering in hospital and doctors have dubbed him a miracle man.

Speaking for the first time since the horror attack a month ago, James said yesterday: "My poor, poor wife. The worst thing is that I felt so absolutely powerless. I couldn't get to her. I couldn't get to her."

James, originally from Whiteinch, Glasgow, added: "The Jeep's doors burst open with the impact.

"The next thing I remember, I was on the ground. But I couldn't move with this leg. It was flopping around. I just had to lie there.

"Then the swarm came. I knew I was being attacked by bees. I was crying for help.

"I felt them stinging me, stinging me. They were even right down my throat. In my ears and right down my throat. I wouldn't say I was fully aware but I was conscious enough to think to myself - please excuse me - 'I'm in deep s *** here.' "

James believed his wife was still trapped in the car. But his daughter Lyndia Parpottas, 32, has been told she managed to get out before collapsing.

Mum-of-two Lyndia said: "I don't think my dad sees himself as brave because he couldn't assist my mom and I know he tried. He wanted to go to her but couldn't."

Paramedics were soon on the scene but were unable to get to the couple immediately because of the bees.

By the time they got to them, the bees had been attacking the couple for 20 minutes. Similar swarms have killed horses and cows in less than 15 minutes.

James added: "I remember Larry (a passer-by who tried to help) trying to get to me, but he couldn't get close.

"I remember hearing the paramedic shouting at me. This was after he had tried to move me, but had then got so badly stung that he had to retreat."

James is receiving daily dialysis for kidney failure along with counselling. And he says he is having difficulty in dealing with the fact he survived while his wife died.

He explained: "I've thought about it. They say I'm a miracle. But I can't believe it. I can't believe it. It hasn't sunk in yet.

"I'm more concerned about my leg and the dialysis which is exhausting.

"I'm glad the doctors are going to reduce it to every second day. It shows my kidneys are coming right. I am getting better. I'm just very weak.

"At least I look better now. You should have seen me 10 days ago.

"The doctors say the toxins from the stings are still coming out of my body. There were so many that it took three nurses three days to remove them all.

"Besides the pain in my leg from having a pin put through the marrow from my hip to the knee, my mouth was the worst. My whole mouth was one big sore. It was terrible. It swelled up and I got bad ulcers."

At one point, while James described his ordeal, Lyndia looked anxiously at an insect buzzing around the ceiling of the ward.

Later, she explained that she thought it was a bee. She said: "There was a bee in his room a week ago. My dad was petrified.

"His physician has warned us he's not sure what will happen if he is ever stung again, even if it's just once.So we have to be careful.

"He wasn't scared of bees before this. My father is a wildlife lover who lives in the Kruger Park and walks everywhere."

James's goal now is getting out of hospital to join Lyndia and son James, 33, for a family Christmas at home.

The Scot, who settled in South Africa in the mid-60s, said: "If you ask me what's given me the will to live it's the people around me.

"They are the ones pulling me through."