Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

EAST RIDGE, TN. (WRCB)-- A man is dead after being bitten by a copperhead snake.

It happened at a home on Blanton Drive in East Ridge.

Eyewitness news has learned 26-year-old Wade Westbrook was bitten just above the elbow by a copperhead.

A friend brought the snake to the house.

Police and investigators with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are still putting the pieces together.

We know that EMS responded to the home just after 8:00pm Saturday and immediately began CPR. Westbrook was taken to Erlanger, but by the time the ambulance arrived it was too late.

"He was a nice guy, I liked him and he was just fascinated with exotic animals and snakes," says Clyde Malcomb.

When Channel 3 ran into Clyde Malcomb Sunday morning he'd just learned what happened to his friend and long time neighbor 26-year-old Wade Westbrook.

"What surprises me the most is he actually got bit, because he knew snakes and that surprises me," says Malcomb.

Westbrook's family declined to talk on camera, but Malcomb referred to the 26-year-old as a handler. He says he's been into the home on Blanton Drive before, and saw Westbrook pet snakes.

"Pythons, just regular snakes, no venomous ones," says Malcomb.

But according to police, it was poisonous snake that struck and killed Westbrook Saturday night, although it didn't belong to him.

"Copperheads like places that have a lot of cover, so you might see them in tall grasses, you might see them around rocks," says Courtney Lewis with the Tennessee Aquarium.

Police say the small copperhead, much like the ones at the Tennessee Aquarium, was brought over by a friend and Westbrook was trying to determine the sex of it when it bit him.

"Part of our investigation is whether it came from outside, or whether it came from someone's residence," says TWRA Officer Chris Combs.

TWRA officials revisited Blanton Drive Sunday morning. Part of their investigation is to find out whether or not the copperhead is a pet.

"Possession of a copperhead, rattlesnake, any poisonous snake, even like a box turtle, is illegal in Tennessee," says Combs.

Aquarium Herpetologist Courtney Lewis says copperheads are common in Tennessee and anyone bit by a poisonous snake should seek immediate medical attention.

"It depends on where you're bitten, how much venom was injected, it's just best to get to the hospital as quickly as possible," says Lewis.

Animal Control officers took possession of the copperhead Saturday night and have turned it over to TWRA.

Police believe the snake was found in a yard before it was taken to Blanton Drive. This case is still under investigation by TWRA and the East Ridge Police Criminal Division.

Experts say dying from snake venom in North America is extremely rare.

In 2005, six deaths from snakebites were reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

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