It’s not often a man dies in Missouri from a venomous snakebite. Reportedly, a Nixa man passed away Saturday after suffering bites from a snake, likely a cottonmouth aka water moccasin. Allegedly, the victim, Gilbert De Leon, refused medical attention and died in his sleep from the snake’s bite, according to a May 28 report from USA Today.
On the day the man died, he and his girlfriend were at the Delaware Access southwest in their hometown. Christian County Coroner Brad Cole said De Leon, 37, waded into the St. James River and was bitten by a snake at least twice.
“His girlfriend reported that he yelled he’d been bitten by a snake and got out of the river to find he’d been bitten twice — once on each leg. I’m not sure what kind of snake bit him, but the only venomous water snake I’m aware of is a cottonmouth. It could have been something else, but we just don’t know.”
The victim’s companion pleaded with him to go to a hospital for treatment. However, the man refused, stating that he was not financially able to afford the cost of an emergency room visit from the animal attack. Instead, he went home, Cole said. There, the man fell asleep despite more pleas from his girlfriend to visit the hospital. At some point later, she heard the man snoring louder than usual. The next morning, she found her lover dead.
Cole said the man’s death was shocking; it’s the first snakebite he’s seen in his professional career in the state. Judging by the short width of the fang marks, the snake responsible for the fatal bites was not a large species.
Although the man died from the bite of a snake, fatalities are rare in the state of Missouri. According to an MDC report by Jim Low, “snakebites ranks just above falling space debris as a threat to human life.”
Based on a study by the state’s Poison Center over six years, there were 596 reports of snakebites. Of those, none were fatal. In fact, the last known death from a bite took place in 1965. Time Magazine did a study on the the frequency of deaths from various sources during 2002 and noted the following: accidents (44,757), bicycles (762), pool drownings (515), bee/wasp stings (66), lightning (47) dog attacks (32) and snakebites (2).