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Freer snake handler died doing 'what he loved most'

Eugene DeLeon Sr. died Saturday after being bit by a rattlesnake
Eugene DeLeon.jpg
Posted at 6:12 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 19:12:52-04

FREER, Texas — On Saturday, Freer resident Eugene DeLeon Sr., died at age 60 from injuries related to a rattlesnake bite at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Freer.

“All I can say is that my dad passed on, doing what he loved the most,” said Blanca Treviño, DeLeon Sr.’s daughter.

Treviño said her father started handling snakes at the age of 18.

He always put on shows with snakes, she said, even if they were only for a couple of family members.

Treviño recalled a time last year, where her family asked him to bring snakes on a trip for them to show off.

“The whole block, the neighbors came, took pictures with the snakes, took videos with him showing,” she said. “It was his pride possession, snakes were his pride possession.”

Treviño said her father knew the risk associated with dealing with dangerous animals, but it was his passion.

“My dad is my hero. He is the bravest man that I knew, to handle these sorts of dangerous beings. To me, as a daughter, it’s a blessing to know someone who was brave enough to handle something like this,” she said.

He shared that passion, and grew the passion, alongside his son.

“One year, my brother started, and my dad’s passion with my brother started to grow between them,” Treviño said.

DeLeon Sr. had been handling snakes at the Rattlesnake Roundup for the last six years.

Treviño said despite what happened, she is grateful to everyone involved in the Roundup for allowing her father to participate.

“His biggest dream in the world was to come back, show for his community, and be proud of what he did,” she said.

Treviño said her father was bitten twice in the shoulder area. According to Elda E. Sanchez, the director of the National Natural Toxins Research Center at Texas A&M-Kingsville, the rattlesnake’s venom causes major bleeding in the body.

The fact that the bites were in that location, they made them more deadly, she said.

“There seems to be a lot more trouble, due to major arteries, and the fact that these toxins can travel to the brain and cause damage to the brain and the lungs,” Sanchez said.

There was no anti-venom at the Rattlesnake Roundup, as anti-venom is only able to be administered by a medical professional.

Sanchez said hospitals in the U.S. have one of two anti-venoms available to treat North American snake bites, and the venom is not ready to administer.

“They have to prepare the anti-venom,” Sanchez said. “It depends what kind of anti-venom they have. They have to wait for the reconstitution to occur, then they’re given the anti-venom.”

Funeral services for DeLeon Sr. will be held at Mauro P. Garcia Funeral Home in San Diego on May 7, from 3-9 p.m.

Treviño said the family is collecting donations to help pay for the funeral expenses. Donations can be made to the Garcia Funeral Home.