UPDATED: Official cause of death determined in snake bite case - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATED: Official cause of death determined in snake bite case

Posted: Updated:

Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

EAST RIDGE, TN. (WRCB)-- Eyewitness News is learning more about an East Ridge man, who died after he was bitten by a copperhead.

Officials tell us the snake bit 26-year-old Wade Westbrook just above the elbow.

Within minutes, he was unconscious.

His mother tells Channel 3 this is not the first time he's been bitten by that same type of snake.

Officials say Westbrook died of anaphylactic shock.

Reports indicate 36 minutes passed from the time 911 was called to Westbrook's arrival at Erlanger.

According to police reports, he was unconscious for 10 minutes before 911 was even called.

Wade Westbrook was a husband and father. He spent Saturday with his 3-year-old son before a friend brought a small copperhead snake to his home on Blanton Drive.

"More snake bites happen from people trying to handle snakes whether it's out in the woods, or just found one in the home or whatever," says Dr. Chris Moore.

That is exactly what Westbrook was doing when he the snake struck. Dr. Chris Moore is the Director of Wilderness Medicine for the University of Tennessee and says death from snake bites, especially copperheads, are rare.

"In most cases copperhead bites are treated with observation and support without ever having to give anti-venom," says Dr. Moore.

Westbrook was pronounced dead upon arrival at Erlanger.

According to East Ridge police reports, Westbrook tried to extract the venom with a tool after he was bitten, then he began coughing and vomiting before he collapsed.

"The death certificate lists that he died due to anaphylactic shock as a result of the snake bite," says Eric Hopkins, spokesperson for the East Ridge Police Department.

Westbrook's family declined to talk on camera, but his mother tells Channel 3 he's been fascinated with snakes since he was a boy.

He'd been bitten by a copperhead snake before, which is probably why police reports show 911 wasn't called for 10 minutes after he collapsed.

Moore says you never know when someone will go into shock.

"Patients can get hypersensitized to snakes, not only from previous bites, but studies have shown that people that handle snakes can develop hypersensitivity to them," says Dr. Moore.

Anaphylaxis is a severe form of allergic reaction.

Dr. Moore says it's an immediate life-threatening situation.

Police aren't releasing the name of the friend who brought the snake over that night and don't believe the copperhead was a pet.

The case is still under investigation, but police don't expect to file charges.

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