An elderly Tasmanian farmer died after being bitten repeatedly by a 1.4-metre tiger snake found still wrapped around his arm when help arrived.
Winston William Fish, 78, was found conscious and gripping the snake’s head with both hands on January 28 this year but died after being choppered to hospital suffering bites to his hand and inner thigh.
Despite being treated with anti-venom, Mr Fish died two days later from multiple organ failure caused by the snake venom, a coroner concluded in a report published this week.
Mr Fish had been mustering sheep on his quad bike on the day he was bitten, with neighbours finding him after his dog returned to the homestead, raising alarm.
The first person on scene “saw that a snake was latched onto his right hand, with Mr Fish holding its head with both hands to squeeze it,” Coroner Olivia McTaggart noted.
“She saw that it had wrapped around Mr Fish’s right arm up to his neck and its body was moving around. At this time Mr Fish was still conscious.”
One of the neighbours used a knife to cut off the snake’s head.
“(Mr Fish) threw it a couple of feet away. I hit it over the head with the mattock to make sure that it was not able to bite anyone else,” another one of the neighbours told investigators at the time.
The man said Mr Fish was “in a pretty bad way” and that his hand – one of the bite sites – had gone black.
A doctor and ambulance arrived and Mr Fish was subsequently taken by helicopter from his central-Tasmanian property to hospital in Hobart, where he died.
Ms McTaggart was unable to determine the circumstances in which Mr Fish encountered the snake but noted fatal bites are rare.
Despite a number of bites each year, Mr Fish is Tasmania’s third known death since 1948.
The risk of being bitten is low, Ms McTaggart said.