Texas rattlesnake handler dies after bite at festival

The veteran handler was reportedly bitten while handling snakes in front of a crowd

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A snake handler died on Saturday evening after he was bitten by a rattlesnake at a roundup in Freer, Texas, a small town about 110 miles south of San Antonio. 

Eugene DeLeon Sr. was bitten around 1:00 p.m. while handling snakes in front of a crowd and flown by helicopter to a hospital in Corpus Christi, where he died later that night around 9:00, Freer Police Chief Hector Doria told KIII

Texas is home to 10 species of rattlesnakes and DeLeon was always just "a call away for local residents to assist with removing snakes from their property," the Freer Chamber of Commerce, which put on Saturday's Rattlesnake Roundup, said Sunday. 

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A rattlesnake slithers across a pile of coiled rattlesnakes inside the rattlesnake pit at the Rattlesnake Round-up in Sweetwater, Texas.

A rattlesnake slithers across a pile of coiled rattlesnakes inside the rattlesnake pit at the Rattlesnake Round-up in Sweetwater, Texas. (Reuters)

DeLeon's sister, Monica Dimas, asked for friends and family to keep her brother's loved ones in their prayers, saying that her brother died "doing what he loved doing."

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"He had a passion for snake handling at the rattlesnake round up in Freer," Dimas wrote in a post on Facebook. 

"After many years of handling these things today was not your day with them."