Snakes alive: Man bitten by red belly - 45 minutes after killing it

JAKE Thomas nearly died after being bitten by a dead snake in a cemetery.

The retired Werris Creek railwayman has recovered after intensive care treatment from two bites from a red-bellied black snake – and he’s lived to tell a tale that beggars belief for some of us.

Old timers will tell you that a snake doesn’t die until sunset – and Jake questions now whether the myth is fact. 

His story is a cracker of a snake saga.

It involves a good Samaritan act, a volunteer’s duty to keep others safe, and a tale of the snake’s tail that didn’t stop the fangs from biting into his finger.

After an emergency trip to hospital, a couple of days in the critical care unit of Tamworth hospital, and a bit of soul searching, Jake’s got a message for others, too. Beware where you walk and what you do. Snakes are about where you least expect them.

Jake had never killed a snake in his life until about 10 days ago. He’s seen plenty but heeded the advice of the experts – run away and leave them alone. Until now.

But when Jake and his mate Barry Constable went off to mow around the Werris Creek cemetery, like he’s done regularly as one of about five local blokes since his daughter died in 2001, they were simply doing their bit to tidy it up for the Christmas visitors to family.

“I saw the black snake. It was in a headstone on the grave next to my daughter’s. It had stopped moving and I could see it was caught in a vase. There was about two foot hanging out,” he said.

Worried that grieving family would come across it, he went for the shovel and cut it in half.

He and Barry finished the lawn mowing and then he went back to clean the snake up and take it away so it didn’t scare the socks off someone else.

He reached down into where the flowers were next to the vase – and that’s when the head reared up and bit him.

He nearly died of shock, apart from the what the poison and venom would bring on later. 

“He got me twice, two good ones, on the ring finger of my left hand and I just turned to Barry and said ‘the bastard’s got me.’

“It was razor sharp. I drove to the Werris Creek hospital. They talked to a doctor in Tamworth and then they called an ambulance and took me to Tamworth.”

He spent two days in ICU.

“They told me I was lucky it wasn’t a brown. They said I’d got a good hit but the brown is more deadly.  I can still feel the pain. He really drove it into me.”

Jake couldn’t believe it.

“Yeah, well, now I remember all those stories too. They reckon they don’t die until the sun sets and they used to hang them on the fence to let everyone know it was there. There might be something to it, I reckon.”

According to snake experts, the cold-blooded reptile’s lingering nerve reflexes mean it can effect a bite up to an hour after it is dead.

Right now, Jake believes it’s more than just a myth.

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