published Sunday, January 30th, 2011, updated Jan. 30th, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.

East Ridge snakebite death called highly unusual

Experts said the death of an East Ridge man who was bitten Saturday by what police said was a copperhead snake is highly unusual.

Wade Westbrook, 26, of 1058 Blanton Drive, was handling the snake and was bitten above the right elbow, East Ridge Police Department spokesman Erik Hopkins said in a news release.

Firefighters and ambulance personnel used CPR and Westbrook was taken to Erlanger hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Hopkins said.

Dan Hicks of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said it's "extremely unusual" for someone to die from a single copperhead bite.

"It is especially unusual for someone to die as quickly as he did. And it is very rare for someone in a metropolitan area to succumb to a bite. Usually they are able to get help on time,” Hicks said Sunday,

Because of this, Hicks said his agency is not verifying that Westbrook actually died from a snakebite until an autopsy is completed. He said it is possible that some other factor was involved, such as some pre-existing condition

See Monday's Times Free Press for complete coverage.

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bozooka said...

My condolences to his family. I doubt this story. It is my understanding that there has never been a confirmed case of a copperhead bite killing a healthy adult. NEVER. The venom is not that strong. If this story is true alert everyone, because it is a first.

January 30, 2011 at 4:20 p.m.
dude_abides said...

Snake may have been misidentified. Young/reticulated cottonmouths can be similar...to my eye. wildman, glad to see your compassion has returned since that train crash comment

January 30, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.
7Seventeen said...

"It is my understanding that there has never been a confirmed case of a copperhead bite killing a healthy adult. NEVER."

You should be careful using the word 'never'. There were two confirmed deaths from copperhead bites in the past ten years.

January 30, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.
bozooka said...

OK 7Seventeen...There has never been a documented death from a SINGLE copperhead bite. In the case of copperheads, it is my understanding, the antivenin is much more dangerous then the actual bite due to the risk of allergic reaction. Anyway, I hope the facts will come out. Again my condolences to his family and loved ones.

January 30, 2011 at 5:54 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

Reactions to venom can be specific to the individual's body chemistry and to the composition of the venom. Common references usually outline the most likely outcomes, and not all of the possibilities. We'll wait for the report.

January 30, 2011 at 6 p.m.
bozooka said...

7Seventeen.... I went to your Wiki link you posted. You need to check the original citations at the bottom of the page for the "copperhead" bites. Both episodes are SUSPECT.

A Macon County man who was twice bitten by a poisonous snake died Sunday at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.

Relatives said 31-year-old Trent Leprette of the Little Texas community, was swimming in the Saugahatchee Creek, near Loachapoka, when he received a bite to each hand by a copperhead snake. It happened last Wednesday. Leprette, a former medical technician at the hospital, was given anti-venom but his condition worsened because he was allergic to snake venom.<<<<

Two bites and it looks like the cause of death was allergic reaction and not Copperhead venom. Yes, the snakebite was a factor in the death, but not the direct cause of death.

January 30, 2011 at 6:02 p.m.
fisher18_80 said...

But most snakes bite on the lower leg, maybe on the hand when they are surprised. This snake had been under stress for a while. Perhaps being ready to strike causes it to build up some venom? And if it bit above the elbow, it could have hit his brachial artery, and (I have no medical background) that runs to the brain. As I understand it, the real risk with snakes is the venom attacking your nervous system. Maybe this was the perfect storm of problems. Poor guy.

January 30, 2011 at 6:49 p.m.

most bites occur on lower extremities. The closer to the heart, the more dangerous the bite. His health could have played a factor also. Are snakes out already?

January 30, 2011 at 7:41 p.m.
kaykay43 said...

Wow, I thought snakes were hibernating this time of year. My heart goes out to the family.

January 30, 2011 at 8 p.m.
EaTn said...

Read a couple years ago of a woman that died with a reaction to a single yellow jacket bee sting-- found her in the yard next to the lawn mower.

January 30, 2011 at 8:15 p.m.
Livn4life said...

For NOW it looks like a single copperhead bite caused this man's death. Until we hear otherwise, let's assume that is the case. I defy all you naysayers to let a copperhead bite you and not seek immediate attention and see what happens. I differ with all you experts who say no one has ever died from a single copperhead bite. Long years ago there was no anti-venom and people succumbed. But back then there was no twittering emails or wiki-pedia junk to let everyone know. I feel badly for this young man's family whatever the cause of his death.

January 30, 2011 at 10:24 p.m.
Echo said...

Something doesn't add up. Why was this person handling a snake? Was it in his yard? A pet? Was he in the outdoors? How long until he received care? Did he call for EMS right away or only after he felt bad? Where is the snake? Inquiring minds want to know.

A genuinely interesting story and the writer can't provide basic details. You'd think that a rag that can only write the same boring story over an over about what some dirty old city pol in East Ridge did lately could make something of an actual newsworthy event. Who knew Chattanooga State offered a journalism degree?

January 30, 2011 at 10:29 p.m.
jwalton said...

Echo, We're told a friend brought the snake over because the victim was knowledgeable about reptiles. There will be more detail in the morning print paper. But since the law enforcement investigation is still going on, police have not released many details. The weekend editor.

January 30, 2011 at 11:01 p.m.
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