A veteran rattlesnake handler died on Saturday, April 30, hours after a snake bit him during a show, Texas officials say.
Eugene De Leon Sr. was bitten on the shoulder during the Rattlesnake Roundup event in Freer, police told KII-TV. He was flown to a Corpus Christi hospital, where he died, police told the station.
Organizers of the Kendall County Fair Association say De Leon died “doing what he loved, being with the rattlesnakes.”
Rattlesnake Roundup is put on by the Freer Chamber of Commerce, which mourned De Leon’s death in a post on Facebook.
“The love and dedication he displayed for his community was witnessed everyday from being a member of the Freer Vol. Fire Department to being a call away for local residents to assist with removing snakes from their property,” the chamber of commerce said. “He was always ready to help. We will never forget his excitement during Roundup time, from doing interviews with television stations to appearing on televised wildlife shows, he did it all.”
His sister said De Leon “had a passion for snake handling” and handled rattlers for “many years.”
“He was well loved by those who knew him,” added U.S. Congress candidate Sandra Whitten. “My family and I enjoy watching him handle these deadly snakes with ease, almost like he was simply dancing with them. He had a smile on his face and clearly joy in his heart.”
Freer is in southern Texas about 110 miles south of San Antonio.