Texas Snake Handler Eugene De Leon Sr. Bitten to Death by Rattlesnake

A Texas snake handler, Eugene De Leon Senior, died after being bitten to death by a rattlesnake at a festival.

De Leon was handling the snake at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Freer on April 30, when he was bitten on the shoulder in front of a crowd of people, KIII-TV reported.

The snake handler, who had worked with snakes for over 20 years, was taken to the hospital by a helicopter where he fought his injuries for eight hours before he died, the radio station said.

De Leon's sister posted a tribute to the snake handler on Facebook

Newsweek has contacted the Freer Police Department for comment.

The Rattlesnake Roundup, held in Freer, is the largest festival in the area and involves snake shows, feedings and carnival activities revolving around the venomous serpent.

Rattlesnakes have extremely potent venom that is full of hemotoxins. However, fatalities are rare as they usually only bite when provoked. There is also a wide distribution of antivenom across the state. If a bite is not treated immediately, the venom only takes seconds to travel into the bloodstream. The venom causes tissue damage and destroys blood cells, causing internal hemorrhaging. Those bitten usually need to receive medical attention within 30 minutes.

Antivenom is not kept on-site at the Rattlesnake Roundup festival, as it must be administered by hospital staff, according to KIII-TV.

De Leon's sister, Monica Dimas, posted a tribute to her brother on Facebook on May 1.

"My brother has gained his wings today doing what he loved doing," she wrote. "He had a passion for snake handling at the rattlesnake round up in Freer...after many years of handling these things today was not your day with them.. Rest in Peace my brother..."

Dimas has also posted a fundraiser to her Facebook page, where she is raising money for De Leon's funeral as "it happened so sudden."

De Leon's sister said he died doing what he loved

De Leon was a member of the local Freer volunteer fire department and worked to remove the venomous snakes that slithered into people's home.

The Freer Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that De Leon was "always ready to help" his community.

"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," the statement said. "You showed all of us to follow our passion and give back to our community. May you Rest In Peace Eugene."

A congressional candidate, Sandra Whitten, also posed a tribute to De Leon on Facebook. She said that De Leon was "well loved" by those who knew him.

"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," she wrote.

Rattlesnake bite
A stock photo shows a rattlesnake. Another rattlesnake bit De Leon on the shoulder. EdwardSnow/Getty Images