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Daughter of Freer rattlesnake handler shares father's legacy following tragic death

DeLeon's daughter Blanca Trevino told 3NEWS about her father's legacy and what he was like outside of his profession.

FREER, Texas — The Freer community is devastated by the loss of a beloved snake handler, and the question remains of how his death could have been prevented. 

Freer Police Chief Hector Doria confirmed to 3News that Eugene DeLeon Sr. was bitten in the shoulder around 1 p.m. Saturday. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Corpus Christi but died Saturday night at approximately 9 p.m.

RELATED: Freer rattlesnake handler dies from bite at Rattlesnake Roundup

DeLeon's daughter Blanca Trevino told 3NEWS about her father's legacy and what he was like outside of his profession. 

"That night before my dad passed, he was having fun," Trevino said. "He was making his community proud and making his dream come true."

Through the tragic accident Saturday night, DeLeon's family was changed forever, in an instant. 

RELATED: Why anti-venom is not kept at Rattlesnake Roundup events

"As soon as I got here. I was informed from an official, that someone had been bit," Trevino said. "I ran straight, I told myself, 'it may be your dad, it may not be your dad. But if it's your dad, please let everything be ok.'"

Before an ambulance arrived, two national guards assisted DeLeon Sr, until helped arrived. For that, Trevino was grateful.

"Whoever they are, I want to give them a big, big thank you. For being there for my dad, until the infinity," Trevino said. 

Dr. Elda Sanchez, Director of the National Natural Toxins Research Center at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, said that when dealing with venomous bites, time is of the essence. 

"Well, it depends where the bite is located," Sanchez said. "And so the majority of the people – there's probably 7,000 envenomations a year here in the United States, and maybe about 6 to 14 people end up dying from the bite."

Sanchez adds that in conjunction with time, location plays a vital role in administering anti-venom. Factoring in many medical variables makes giving someone anti-venom a delicate practice. 

"Anti-venom has to be administered in a hospital setting, because sometimes people can actually be allergic to the anti-venom itself. So there has to be you know, antihistamines on hand, so they can be treated," Sanchez said.

DeLeon Sr, was bitten on the shoulder, which Sanchez said plays another role in how situations with venomous bites play out. 

"There's a lot of major arteries in that area. And a lot of these toxins, especially the toxins that are found in the western diamondback," Sanchez said. "70% of those toxins are hemorrhagic toxins, meaning that they cause bleeding."

With all the current factors, the question remains of whether there should be additional precautions for snake handlers at events like the roundup?

"In our center, we work with specialized tools that will, you know, we can pick up the snakes with snake grabbers or pinning sticks. And so, free handling is always a danger," Sanchez said.

While the situation will always be a source of pain for her, Trevino finds solace in the overwhelming support of the community. 

"I want to give everybody thanks for all their condolences again, of course the outpouring condolences, prayers and strength," Trevino said. 

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