Pennsylvania officials probe man's weekend death by rattlesnake bite

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2015 4:57 PM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Pennsylvania officials on Monday were investigating the weekend death of a man killed by a rattlesnake bite at his family's vacation home in the state's rural northwest.

Russell Davis, 39, was bitten on the ankle by a timber rattlesnake shortly before midnight on Saturday, said Don Logan, manager of Bennett's Valley Ambulance Service, which transported the man to a hospital.

Logan said that Davis, after being bitten, walked back to the cabin, located in Elk County, telling his girlfriend she had to take him to the hospital. He started having trouble breathing along the way, then went into convulsions. She stopped at a tavern to call an ambulance.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Logan said, Davis was receiving CPR and not breathing. Logan noted he saw the twin puncture marks on Davis' ankle from the snakebite.

Doctors at the hospital were able to restart Davis' heart but he died while being taken by helicopter to a larger facility in Pittsburgh, about 125 miles away.

The cause of death was anaphylactic shock, said Armstrong Country coroner Brian Myers.

Christopher Urban, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said the agency's investigators were working to piece together a more complete account of what happened. He said snakebite deaths in the wild were extremely rare in the state.

"I've worked here 15 years and never heard of one," he said.

Urban said Elk County was known for its large timber rattlesnake population. He said many parts of the county posted warning signs about rattlesnakes.

Elk County draws large numbers of tourists who come to see the herd of some 1,100 elk that roam the forests there.

(Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)