The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team
(Echo Canyon, AZ) - The father of a hiker who died after a bee attack near Echo Canyon on Camelback Mountain on Monday watched on live television as rescuers plucked two other men safely off the mountain.
Denis Ruzsa did not know that it was his son, Joshua, who fell about 150 feet down the mountainside trying to escape the swarms of bees.
Another hiker saw Joshua fall after swatting away the bees and called emergency crews at about 3:45 p.m. Monday, said Phoenix Fire Department spokesman Scott McDonald.
Joshua, 19, was hiking with his two friends near George's Route and Icebox Canyon just off the popular hiking trail Echo Canyon. The two friends have not been identified.
The three men were training for Marine Corps boot camp.
"I believe my son would have been a great Marine," Denis said. "I am proud of my son, I love my son and I miss my son."
The three friends walked off the trail down to a steeper area. They started to climb when they came across the bees, Phoenix police spokesman Trent Crump said. Joshua Ruzsa tried to climb back to the top of the mountain to get away from the bees. He lost his footing and fell.
The other two hikers found a nearby alcove in the face of the mountain. They covered their faces as the bees attacked. They curled up to try to protect themselves from the swarm, said Phoenix Firefighter Todd Lentz.
The swarm stung each man at least 300 times. A helicopter brought Lentz and other rescuers. Wearing a bee suit, Lentz was lowered from the helicopter on a line.
He found both men in fetal positions with bees swarming around them.
"I did not know if (they) were unconscious. I did not know if (they would) jump up," Lentz said in a news conference Tuesday. "I could take only one."
Phoenix police Officer Jim Linehan, the rescue helicopter pilot, lowered Lentz into the alcove. Linehan's main concern was the wind pushing him into the mountain.
"It was difficult," Linehan said about flying close to the sheer cliffs. "I am glad we have this equipment."
Both victims were flown to the base of the Echo Canyon trail where rescue crews waited to transport them to a nearby hospital. Both are recovering from their injuries.
Marine recruiters visited Joshua's home and the hospital where the two men were being treated.
Denis said Joshua would don a 60-pound pack and jog to Thunderbird Park, hike the mountain and jog home. He decided to tackle Camelback Mountain once that became too easy.
Joshua "was always trying to go above and beyond," said Joshua's recruiter, Sgt. Lawrence Banks.