A young hiker died yesterday after he was swarmed and stung by bees, wasps or hornets on Mount Brenton, west of Chemainus. The man's name has not been released, but those at the scene said he appeared to be in his 20s. He was a tourist from Germany hiking with a youth group on the mountain, witnesses said.

"We were called in with a report that a man had been swarmed by what looked like hornets and appeared to be having a severe allergic reaction," said Rick Ruppenthal, the central Vancouver Island superintendent for the B.C. Ambulance Service. "Apparently he had no previous history of allergies."

The call to 9-1-1 came in at 9:30 a.m. yesterday from another hiker with a cellphone.

The ambulance service sent out its advanced life support helicopter, and area police, fire and search-and-rescue crews were also called.

But the hikers were on a part of the mountain that could not be reached by vehicle. At 11:10 a.m., the Victoria Rescue Co-ordination Centre received a call from the ambulance service asking for their aircraft, as rescuers believed air crews could get to the man faster than personnel on foot.

The rescue centre sent out a Cormorant helicopter and Buffalo fixed-wing plane. Search-and-rescue crews in the Buffalo were guided to the site on the mountain by hikers at the scene who had cellphones, said Capt. Aaron Twa.

Two rescue workers parachuted down from the Buffalo. Twa said the man was on the ground and rescuers began giving medical aid immediately.

"I was told the man was not in very good condition," he said. The victim was unconscious and unresponsive.

He was put in a basket stretcher, taken out in the helicopter and flown to the B.C. air ambulance, waiting at the nearby Chemainus mill site. Paramedics continued working on him there, to no avail. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Other hikers said the man had no previous known allergy to stings, Ruppenthal said.

"If you have no previous history or knowledge of an allergy, a couple of stings can be enough," he said.

It appeared the man went into anaphylactic shock, Ruppenthal said. That can lead to death in minutes, as it causes the throat to swell and close.

Several other people are also believed to have been stung, but not injured.

Just what stung the man is not yet clear. Initial reports said the insects were hornets. But Victoria bee expert Bill Spriggs said they were more likely to have been yellow jacket wasps.

Hornets, he said, nest high in branches and are not overly aggressive. Yellow jackets, however, often nest in the ground in rotten tree stumps, where it is relatively easy for hikers to disturb them, Spriggs said.

The man's name will not be released until his next of kin are notified.

Victoria coroner Rose Stanton said her office will investigate the death, as it does all sudden fatalities. An autopsy may be done on the young man to determine the exact cause of his death, she said.