PORTLAND, Ore.—An Oregon man got a big surprise on a commercial flight from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska, when he was stung by a scorpion while sitting in his plane seat.
Jeff Ellis of West Linn said he was trying to sleep on a red-eye Alaska Airlines flight June 17 when he felt something in his sleeve and tried to brush it away. He said he felt the crawling again, looked down and saw the culprit.
“I picked my hand up and said, ‘Oh, my God. That’s a scorpion,’” Ellis told KPTV.
He said he grabbed the scorpion with a napkin and showed it to his girlfriend, but not before it stung him on the elbow.
“At first I didn’t believe him,” said Suzanne Foster, Ellis’ girlfriend. “But then I saw it. He held the napkin up for me to see, and I saw the tail wiggling. I pretty much jumped out of my seat.”
Foster called for the flight attendant as Ellis noticed his elbow burning. He said it felt like a bee sting.
Two doctors on board checked out Ellis, while the flight crew called for medics to meet the plane at the Anchorage airport.
The flight originated from Austin, Texas, where Alaska Airlines officials believe the scorpion got on board.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airline has never had a poisonous creature on one of its flights before.
Based on photos he took of the arachnid, Ellis believes he was stung by a striped bark scorpion common in Texas.
Marshall Brooks, assistant manager at House of Reptiles in Tigard, Ore., said “He got stung because he threatened it. Had he used something else to get it off with or just calmly tried to move it onto something else, it probably wouldn’t have stung him.”
Bark scorpions are more venomous than emperor scorpions, which are the type commonly kept as pets. He said most people will experience minor pain from a bark scorpion unless they are allergic, in which case the sting might cause anaphylactic shock.
Ellis said he is pleased with how the flight crew and the airline handled the situation. He said the airline has offered him 4,000 frequent-flier miles and two round-trip tickets.
“Never in a million years, would I have thought a scorpion would have been on an Alaska Airlines flight headed to Alaska,” Ellis said. “Everybody I’ve talked to thinks it was incredible, unbelievable. I’m here to tell you, it was definitely there.”