The Ballarat community is in mourning following the shock death of a man described as “one hell of a nice guy.”
Andrew ‘Woody’ Hepworth, 55, died tragically at work on Wednesday after being stung by a bee.
The devoted family man, Creswick Football Club stalwart, keen fisherman and trusted employee was stung in the eye at SEM Fire and Rescue just before midday on Wednesday.
The father-of-two died less than an hour later, despite the efforts of paramedics at the scene.
Mr Hepworth’s sudden death has sent shockwaves through the community, which is struggling to come to grips with the passing of an otherwise healthy man.
The coroner told the family on Thursday the bee sting was the sole cause of death.
His family told The Courier they were struggling to describe their grief.
“Words cannot express how deeply saddened the family are by the sudden, tragic loss of Andrew,” the family said in a statement.
“We'll cherish the precious memories of a fun loving and loyal son and brother, who would always put the needs of others before his own.
“We will celebrate the joy and happiness he brought to us.”
SEM Fire and Rescue general manager Alex Heiden described Mr Hepworth as the perfect employee and a man of great character.
He had been with the company for almost 10 years and was previously a long-term employee at John Valves Ballarat.
“I can’t think of him highly enough,” Mr Heiden said.
“Everybody here is a part of a family, he was a big part of the family.
“It was an absolute honour and privilege to work with him. He will be dearly missed.”
A popular figure at the Creswick Football Club, Mr Hepworth is also being remembered as “a tough old bugger”.
In a year in which the football club celebrates its 150th anniversary, president Mick Alsop said there would be a huge hole left in the club.
“Woody was just such a nice guy,” Mr Alsop said.
He’s just always been there, it will be sad he won’t be around in a year in which we celebrate people like him.
For the Creswick Football Club and the township itself, the Hepworth surname go hand-in-hand.
He was also a life member at the Creswick Imperials Cricket Club.
Andrew’s father, Stan, was a life member of the footy club, while his three brothers Stephen (also a life member), Darryl and Geoff all played for the Wickers.
His son Aaron currently plays at the club, while his daughter Alana is a former netballer.
Mr Hepworth played in the Wickers’ 1987 senior premiership and played all his junior and senior football in the red, white and black. He played 143 senior games in total.
Mr Alsop spoke of one time when ‘Woody’ severely dislocated his knee, only to pop it back in himself and continue playing.
A current committee member, ground manager and joint team manager, there would barely be a time when he wasn’t spotted at the football ground.
“He’d have a few beers on the Saturday night, but he’d always be back at 7am on the Sunday cleaning up, because he had so much love for the club,” Mr Alsop said.
“The lines he painted on the ground were perfect, he was an absolute fanatic with doing things perfectly.”
Mr Hepworth is survived by wife Wendy and children Aaron and Alana.
A WorkSafe investigation is under way.
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