Breaking News
More () »

Freer Rattlesnake Roundup officials expect large turnout despite tragedy

Eugene DeLeon Sr. was a well-known snake handler who died from a bite in front of a crowd while doing what he loved at last year's event.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As the town of Freer prepares for its annual Rattlesnake Roundup, memories of last year's tragedy remain. 

Eugene DeLeon Sr. was a well-known snake handler who died from a bite he received while doing what he loved in front of a crowd in 2022.

Rattlesnake Roundup Organizer Fernando Carballeira said that last year's accident was an unfortunate tragedy. 

"The same thing can happen to a dog, to a rabbit, to a cat," he said. "They're animals, at the end of the day."

Carballeira said there was no lack of safety during last year's show, and that the snake just got away from the DeLeon's control. 

Because snake venom is fast-acting, there was limited time for DeLeon to reach a medical facility.

"We're 60 miles from Laredo, 80 miles from Corpus," Carballeira said. "We're smack dab in between." 

Snake anti-venom must be administered in a hospital in case of a negative reaction -- something that could be difficult if any of the 5,000-6,000 people visiting the event are bitten this weekend.

"This year we are bringing in a different set of snake handlers from up north," Carballeira said. "These guys are known as Hatari Reptiles. They breed snakes. They raise snakes. They display snakes. They show snakes at fairs and festivals just like ours."

They also come with different safety protocols, which include 2-by-4s and plexiglass dividers.

Carbelleira told 3NEWS that the roundup has gained a national reputation.

"I had a gentleman, he's actually called me three times wanting information," he said. "He's coming from near Export, Pennsylvania, and said I've been up there. And I'm driving 24 plus hours to come see y'all."

More from 3News on KIIITV.com:  

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for your daily news and exclusive extended interviews.

Do you have a news tip? Tell 3!

Email tell3@kiiitv.com so we can get in touch with you about your story should we have questions or need more information. We realize some stories are sensitive in nature. Let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

Before You Leave, Check This Out