A veteran snake handler has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake at a festival in South Texas. family and officials said.
Eugene De Leon, 60, who had handled snakes for more than 20 years, died at a hospital Saturday, hours after he was bitten by a rattlesnake at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Freer.
De León, who was bitten on the shoulder, was airlifted to a hospital in Corpus Christi, where he succumbed to his injuries about eight hours after the incident.
Snake show organizers said De Leon was handling rattlesnakes in front of revelers when he was bitten.
The event, the biggest festival of the year in the city of 2,600, is operated by the Freer Chamber of Commerce, which offered condolences in a statement Sunday.
“The love and dedication he showed for his community was seen every day, from bringing in a member of the Freer Fire Department (volunteer) to calling on local residents to help remove snakes from their property,” the organization said. “He was always willing to help.”
De Leon “did it all” in Freer when it came to snakes, including regular appearances at the annual festival and at local wildlife shows, the organization said.
“You showed us all following our passion and giving back to our community”continued the statement. May you rest in peace, Eugenio.
De Leon’s sister, Monica Dimas, said her brother “earned his wings” doing what he loved.
“He had a passion for handling snakes at Rattlesnake Roundup in Freer”Dimas wrote on Facebook early Sunday morning. “After many years of handling these things, today was not your day with them. Rest in Peace my brother.”
De Leon’s Facebook profile features a photo showing him holding a large snake while a girl grabs her around the waist and smiles at the camera. Another shot from 2019 shows him holding a snake inside a cage as people watch.
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