Tennessee man dies from poisonous copperhead snake bite

NASHVILLE, Tennessee Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:27pm EST

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Police in East Ridge, Tenn., on Monday are investigating the death of a 26-year-old man who was bitten while attempting to determine the sex of a poisonous copperhead snake.

Wade Westbrook was bitten just above the right elbow Saturday night. Firefighters and paramedics were summoned to the scene, where they attempted CPR, but the man was pronounced dead on arrival at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, East Ridge police spokesman Erik Hopkins said on Monday.

A friend reportedly had taken the snake to Westbrook's house in order to have him determine the sex, and while Westbrook was doing this he was bitten fatally.

"We have a general idea of what occurred, but the investigators are trying to piece it together," Hopkins said. State wildlife officers are also investigating.

He said the death is being treated as an accident. East Ridge is just outside of Chattanooga in the southern part of the state.

The copperhead is a poisonous snake common in the southern United States. A copperhead bite can be extremely painful but is not usually fatal.

(Writing by Tim Ghianni, Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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