Foreign worker allergic to bee sting venom died after he was stung by bees

Indian national Chinnathambi Jeyam, 45, was pronounced dead at Changi General Hospital on May 14, 2016, after being stung by bees at Changi Air Base (East).
Indian national Chinnathambi Jeyam, 45, was pronounced dead at Changi General Hospital on May 14, 2016, after being stung by bees at Changi Air Base (East). PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A foreign worker, who did not know he was allergic to bee sting venom, died after he was attacked by bees, a coroner's court heard on Friday (Oct 28).

Indian national Chinnathambi Jeyam, 45, was pronounced dead at Changi General Hospital (CGH) on May 14 after being stung by bees at Changi Air Base (East). His job at BM Maintenance was to cut grass and do landscaping maintenance work.

An inquest heard that Mr Chinnathambi and his colleague, Mr Mariappan Rameshraja, were helping to tie up logs and tree branches which their supervisor, Mr Lim Poh Soon, had lifted while operating a lorry crane. A swarm of bees emerged from beneath the branches and stung the two men and a third worker.

The two men ran in separate directions. Later, Mr Mariappan saw bee stingers on Mr Chinnathambi's forehead, left cheek and ear. Mr Chinnathambi complained of giddiness. His colleague brought some water for him to drink but he could not and showed signs of impending collapse.

Mr Mariappan then propped Mr Chinnathambi on his knees in a sitting position and poured water into his mouth. But he coughed out and showed signs of losing consciousness.

He was taken to the medical centre where cardio-pulmonary resuscitation was performed. CPR continued until an ambulance took him to CGH.

By then, he had no pulse and his cardiac monitor rhythm showed an asystole or "flat-line". He was pronounced dead at 3.18pm.

An autopsy showed that Mr Chinnathambi died from anaphylaxis due to bee stings.

Anaphylaxis refers to a severe allergic reaction that the body mounts in response to the discovery of a foreign body. The foreign body can be in the form of a food items, medication, venom from insect stings, or other objects.

"Anaphylaxis can result in narrowing of the airways, resulting in severe respiratory distress causing death, or can cause blood pressure changes leading to cardiorespiratory failure and death," said State Coroner Marvin Bay in his findings on Friday.

Mr Chinnathambi's allergy to bee sting venom was not detected when he went for medical screening in September last year.

Coroner Bay said there was no basis to suspect foul play. None of the workers at the scene appeared to be aware of the presence of the bee swarm in the pile of branches.

He said deaths from allergic reactions to bee stings were an occasional, but real, hazard.

A pest control worker died after he was attacked by bees at Sherwood Road in November 2013.

"Discretion is the best policy, and people should keep a wide berth of hives and swarms of bees and other stinging insects.

"This is because most individuals will not be aware if their immune system will react to induce a fatal or debilitating anaphylactic shock if they are stung," he said.

He suggested that it may be useful, where possible, to keep the dead insect or its stinger for doctors to make an accurate and early diagnosis of possible anaphylaxis, when such symptoms begin to present.