Yellow jackets sting more than 70 during Alameda County Fair's fireworks show

Pleasanton Weekly reporter helps one girl 'who got stung three times'

More than 70 people were stung by yellow jackets at the Alameda County Fair last night after a ground nest was apparently disturbed during a fireworks show.

Brittany Hersh, a fair volunteer, said "one girl came into the small animals department and was on the floor screaming."

"I guess she got stung three times and she is allergic to wasps," said Hersh, a college senior who works at the fair and is a summer intern in the Editorial Department of the Pleasanton Weekly.

Hersh and others alerted the paramedics, who treated the girl.

"Then we had to get everyone out of the rabbit barn early," she said.

The fireworks show started around 9:15 p.m., and about half way through the show, at about 9:30, a group of yellow jackets were stirred up at the north end of the grandstands, fair spokeswoman April Mitchell said.

More than 70 people were stung despite the efforts of fair staff and law enforcement personnel to clear people from the grandstand area, Mitchell said. Everyone who was stung was treated at the scene by Alameda County firefighters.

The victims ranged from a 60-year-old adult to a 6-month-old infant, with some people suffering multiple stings, fire spokeswoman Aisha Knowles said. No one suffered serious reactions to the stings, and no one needed to be taken to a hospital.

Investigators initially thought the stings were from bees, but 10 insect carcasses were collected and determined to be ground-burrowing yellow jackets. The area was inspected and a ground nest was discovered. The nest was later cleared from the area.

Investigators believe the launching of the fireworks may have vibrated through the ground and disturbed the nest, Knowles said.

Mitchell said this was the first incident of this proportion involving insects on the fairgrounds.

However, it was the second incident in as many days that caused injuries at the fair.

On Thursday, a roller coaster ride malfunctioned, causing minor injuries to five children and two adults.

At about 3 p.m. Thursday, a connector link on a chain at the "Wacky Worm" ride appears to have pulled apart, causing the chain to dangle in front of the ride and hit the passengers, Mitchell said.

The ride was shut down for inspection after the incident, and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health cleared the ride for repair Thursday evening.

The ride reopened Friday afternoon after being repaired.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News contributed to this report


Like this comment
Posted by Keith
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 5, 2010 at 1:05 am

Every year the fair just becomes less of an attraction.
How can they attract people with expensive parking, entrance fees and ride/food costs?
Do they not inspect these rides and event sites? They better hope there are no law suits.

Like this comment
Posted by Kyra
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm

There was also an investigation several years ago that revealed convicted child molesters were employed at the Fair.

Like this comment
Posted by Jessica
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The fair is symbolic of summer. We need to stop blaming everyone else for things. Fairs are notorious for employing "carnies" and everybody knows the rides are put up in a day, enjoy at your own risk. If you don't like it then fo and eat at one of the crappy restaurants downtown! Btw....anybody can get stung anywhere, anytime.

Like this comment
Posted by AD
a resident of Sycamore Place
on Jul 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm

The fair has absolutely got very expensive. The thing I appreciated was that the emergency response was very smooth and effective. The number of 70 is definitely an underestimation as we saw a lot more people getting stung.

It was indeed a surprise that there was a yellow jacket mound (?) so close to grandstands -- looks like there is absolutely no inspection - and that is indeed a cause of concern for the fairgoers.

We have visited the fair every year for the last 6 years since we moved -- but we may not visit moving forward.

Like this comment
Posted by Yusin
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Jul 6, 2010 at 7:41 am

I agree with Jessica. You can get stung anywhere. The Alameda County Fair is a one of the nicest fairs I've ever attended and hopes this is just an unfortunate situation that they couldn't have detected. Yellowjackets form their hives underground. How could anybody have predicted this? We're all too "sue-happy' nowadays. Take responsibility and man-up to whatever happens.

Like this comment
Posted by Another Gatetree Resident
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jul 7, 2010 at 10:43 am

So many GOOD things could have been reported about the County Fair yet Pleasanton Weekly chooses to write an editorial about bee stings. Given the numbers that pass through the gates, I would hardly call 70 people being stung "newsworthy."

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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