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Hornets swarm Ecker Hill students

Dale Thompson, Of the Record staff

Students out for a hike on Wednesday morning were swarmed by hornets, 34 got stung, some as many as five times.

The Ecker Hill International Middle School physical education classes, approximately 50 students, were hiking on a trail behind the school when they accidentally disturbed a hornets nest on the ground None of them had an allergic reaction or were critically injured, said Assistant Principal Sherri Peterson.

She added there were, "a lot of tears and lot of scared kids," but noted, "they’re absolutely fine."

One girl who was stung several times reported having a hard time breathing. Peterson attributed this to mild panic. Park City Fire Department personnel, who were called as a precaution, put an oxygen mask on her.

"I think a lot of that was she was uncomfortable and scared," she said.

According to Peterson, teachers Jeff and Tamara Schwalbe always carry a radio on these hikes and contacted the school to inform them what had happened.

Tamara was reportedly stung six times as she helped students away from the swarm.

"She was in communication with us. The fire department came and helped," Peterson said.

A press release issued by the fire department gave an account of the event:

"The first third of the class made it through the area without any problems. In the second third of the group two students were stung, and the remaining third got the worst of it."

The school contacted parents after learning what had happened.

"We called every parent of each kid that came in."

Some parents showed up at school to check on their children and one or two students elected to go home for the rest of the day, Peterson said.

Maintenance personnel and one of the teachers returned to the nest and sprayed a sealer on it to kill wasps and prevent others from getting stung. The spray is kept in a tool shed near the ropes course at Ecker Hill in case of encounters with wasps nests.

Teachers had walked the trail the Friday before last to check the conditions and did not encounter the nest. Peterson guessed the vibrations caused by 50 students walking the path disturbed the hornets.

Classes returned to the trail the very next day.

"A lot of the PE curriculum is outside and they take advantage of the opportunities here," Peterson said.

How to treat a hornet sting:

Tips from Park City School District nurse Anne Alexander

Remove the stinger if you can still see it. Alexander recommends against using tweezers because squeezing it could inject more venom into the body. Instead, scrape it with a dull object such as a credit card.

If the area is dirty: Clean it with an antibacterial wipe or something similar.

For pain and swelling: Wrap ice in a wash cloth or paper towel and hold it against the sting for 10 to 15 minutes.


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