Updated: 08-05-2003 04:38:18 PM

Ohio Firefighter Dies After Bite From Pet Snake


Story by WLWT
CINCINNATI -- Despite a cross-country effort to save a firefighter's life, doctors could not save the Ohio man hours after a snake bit him.

The victim, Michael Peterman, was a 14-year veteran of the Dayton Fire Department who also was a snake and lizard collector, WLWT Eyewitness News 5's Lisa Cooney reported Monday. He was taken to University Hospital Sunday night, where he died Monday afternoon.

Anti-venom for the Central African rhinoceros viper is normally hard to come by, and in this case, ended up being impossible to find in this country, Cooney reported. The rhino viper is known for its horns and deadly venom.

"Some (bites) cause paralysis, some cause swelling and most of them cause shock, where the blood stops coagulating and people either bleed from the tissues or fluid leaks out of their blood vessels," Drug & Poison Information Center spokesman Dr. Randall Bond said.

Bond, who actually has studied snake bites in Africa, said that surviving a bite from the rhino viper can sometimes depend on the location of the bite.

"Rarely, people will be invenomated right into a vein, so it's like shooting up the venom, as opposed to simply getting it into a muscle and slowly having it leak into the body," he said.

The rhino viper is small and less aggressive than its cousin, the Gaboon viper, Cooney reported. It uses long fangs, potent venom and powerful jaws to kill its prey. When fully grown, the snake can measure nearly 4 feet long. And when its excited, it can inflate its body to double its size.

Like practically anything else, a rhino viper can be purchased online, Cooney reported. Cooney found a baby viper available online for $75 plus shipping. Adult snakes were available for about $125.