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."
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