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Worker dies after he's stung by swarm of bees in Thermal date orchard

Worker dies after he's stung by swarm of bees in Thermal date orchard
Bees gather around a hive. A Thermal man died after he was stung by a swarm of bees, his family said. (Mike Dirks / Associated Press)

A man working at a date orchard in Riverside County died this week after being stung by a swarm of bees, his family and fire officials said.

Gerardo Balbuena, 49, was working the fields at a date palm orchard in Thermal just after 9 a.m. Monday when he came across a beehive, said his daughter, Marilou Balbuena. He was stung by at least 30 bees, she said.

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After he was attacked, Balbuena went into cardiac arrest, said Tawny Cabral, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Balbuena's official cause of death has not been determined. The Thermal resident's daughter said he was allergic to bee stings.

"I can just imagine the pain he felt when he was stung by all those bees," she said.

Balbuena, a native of Morelos, Mexico, worked at Hadley Date Gardens for 27 years, said Albert P. Keck, the company's president. He said Balbuena was a talented and hardworking employee with a loving family.

"He is an immigrant that we should be very proud" of as Americans, Keck said.

Keck said he has been working alongside Balbuena since his family acquired the gardens. He recently told Balbuena they were "going to grow old together."

"The owners and employees at Hadley Date Gardens are devastated by the tragic death and loss of our dear co-worker and friend, Gerardo Balbuena, and are still in shock trying to cope with this," Keck said. "Words cannot adequately express our sorrow and grief, but first and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the Balbuena family, who we will support and remain in close touch with through this tragedy."

At Hadley, the man's daughter said, Balbuena jumped at the opportunity to work any task that was given to him.

"My dad was thankful for his job, and he worked there to give all his kids a better life," Marilou Balbuena said. "He always stressed the importance of school. He always told us to go to school so that we wouldn't end up working in a tough job like his."

Balbuena is survived by his wife, four daughters, a son and a grandson.

A family friend has created a GoFundMe account to help with funeral costs and related expenses.

"This world lost an amazing human being, but heaven gained an angel," Marilou Balbuena, 25, said. "My siblings and I are beyond thankful for having the opportunity to have been raised by such an amazing, smart, caring, lovable and funny individual."

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA

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UPDATES:

1:20 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Albert Keck.

This article was originally published at 1 p.m.

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