Pupils at Essex school stung by yellow jackets

47 2nd-graders are hurt after nest disturbed


Dillon Hopson joined about 100 of his fellow second-graders at Deep Creek Elementary School yesterday for a trip outside the school to learn about trees. Then, a friend kicked a stump.

A stump containing a nest of yellow jackets.

"They were all surrounding me," the 8-year-old said of the swarm that emerged to sting him on both arms and the back of his head, and sting dozens of his schoolmates. It seemed like something out of a book, but, as he left the hospital, he said, "This is one page I don't want to have again."

In all, 47 youngsters at the Essex school were stung by the yellow jackets, according to the county Fire Department. Most of them were stung outside. But as children were rushed into the building, some were stung there, apparently because the yellow jackets had gotten into their clothes.

Forty children, including two who suffered mild allergic reactions, were taken to area hospitals, but no one was seriously hurt. Seven who were stung went home with their parents.

It wasn't long after noon yesterday when the entire second grade of the school ventured outside into the autumn sun to look at trees as part of a science project. Nine-year-old Prosper Dokunor was among the children stung.

"I saw the bees were coming, and I ran, and it got me on my head - right on the side," he said later. "I cried."

The boy said he ran to the school and was led into the library.

Deep Creek Principal Anissa Brown Dennis said teachers quickly ushered the children inside the school. She said teachers brought the kids who had received the most stings to the front of the building so they knew who needed the most attention.

She said other people were taken to the nurse's office in small groups to be examined.

Dennis said pupils were also brought inside the school building from seven relocatable classrooms. "In situations like this we always stay calm for our children, calm for our community," Dennis said. "We had parents running in all nervous and stressed."

Classes continued at the school, but after-school programs were canceled for the day. A letter was sent home to parents.

Teachers were able to quickly identify pupils who might have allergies through emergency cards. "This scenario shows why it's so important to provide schools with medical information," said Elise Armacost, a Fire Department spokeswoman.

Youngsters were taken to five area hospitals, officials said.

Because yellow jackets are aggressive and increasingly forage in areas frequented by humans as the season progresses, there tends to be a "a sharp upsurge in the number of stings in late summer and fall," according to a National Park Service fact sheet.

"Nobody can stop the bees, so it's something that happened," said Prosper A. Dokunor, father of the 9-year-old who was stung on the head. He was among the parents who came to Franklin Square Hospital Center yesterday to pick up their children.

In a parking lot outside the hospital emergency room, Dillon Hopson showed where he'd been stung. He pointed to a red mark on his right arm, and then under his left arm. He held his hand to the back of his head, where, he said, he had been stung a few more times.

Asked how he felt, he said: "Aching."

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com liz.kay@balt.sun.com

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