From the ITD Vault: 15 Years Ago (June 2001)
Responding to emergencies on U.S. 12 isn't that unusual for lTD employees Ron Frame and Rod Parsells. But a May 31 semi truck crash near the Wilderness Gateway northeast of Lowell was a uniquely stingy situation for the Powell maintenance leadworker and the special crew foreman. Not only was the driver pinned in the cab, but much of his cargo of about 480 beehives was swarming around the overturned truck.
After the front window was removed, Frame crawled in with the driver to release his leg, which was pinned between the steering wheel and seat. Parsells worked outside the cab of the truck to saw off the steering wheel and pull the seat off the driver's leg using a 2-½ ton winch. The joint effort of Frame and Parsells freed the driver in about an hour with a cut finger, broken leg and a few stings. He was taken to a waiting LifeFlight helicopter and airlifted to a Montana hospital.
An lTD truck was the first on the scene of the crash in the early afternoon. The truck's crew immediately began directing one-way traffic through the area, asking drivers not to pull over and to keep their windows rolled up because of the bees. News of the accident was radioed to Frame and Parsells while they were conducting maintenance work on ditches along U.S. 12. After driving about 20 miles to the crash scene, they suited up as best they could in gloves, hoods and bags with eye holes cut out, and moved in to help.
With about 480 hives and about 1,000 to 2,000 bees per hive, Frame estimates around half a million bees were swarming around the truck.
"It was black with bees and they were mad," said Frame. "When I walked to the truck, about 1,000 to 5,000 bees hit me. We didn't dare quit, because the truck driver was getting stung too."
Frame said he was stung all over his head and hands, but that Parsells got the worst of the stinging because he was working outside the cab of the truck, while Frame worked inside the cab, near the floor, during most of the ordeal. Parsells received about 50 or 60 stings to the head. Frame said his four years of experience as an emergency medical technician helped the duo figure out a strategy to get the driver out by removing the seat.
"It wasn't the first time I've had to get a guy out of a semi, but it was the first one with a bee truck," said Frame.
"Bees got between my glasses and my eye and I thought ‘please sting me in the eyelid, not in my eye.’”
While both men had a very painful weekend. Frame said neither had to go the hospital and both are fine now. It could have been worse, since most of the ITD employees and police who responded to the accident were allergic to bee stings.
D2 Maintenance Engineer Pat Lightfield said lTD maintenance crews from Powell, Fleming and Kooskia are often the first on the scene of car and truck wrecks on remote sections of U.S. 12, where access to police and medical services can be more than 100 miles away. Frame said he helps out at emergencies at least once a month and that helping state police is second nature, not heroism.
"We did it because it had to be done and nobody else could do it. That trucker was as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get," said Frame. "We work closely with ISP. Generally, we help out with traffic control first and then see if there's any other assistance we can offer."
Editor's 2016 Note: Frame left ITD in August of 2002 (maybe still stinging from this bee fiasco).