The death of a central Queensland snake catcher from a taipan bite is being investigated by the coroner. Professional catcher Wayne Cameron, 54, was bitten by a coastal taipan – one of the world’s deadliest snakes – in Rockhampton on Sunday afternoon.
He bandaged his arm and went to hospital despite believing the snake had not injected venom.
Initial tests came back negative but when the bandage was removed, Mr Cameron began to suffer convulsions and died less than an hour after arriving at hospital.
Bundaberg snake catcher David Flack, who had previously worked with Mr Cameron, says the hospital might have erred in removing bandages too quickly.
According to the University of Sydney’s anaesthetics faculty, bandages should be removed slowly even if the patient does not show signs they are affected by venom.
“The point of the bandage is to confine the venom, so if they’ve done a blood test it may not have spread yet,” Mr Flack told AAP.
However, Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service chief executive Len Richards said Mr Cameron’s treatment was managed appropriately.
“A patient being treated for a potential snake bite would not be released for at least 12 hours,” he said.
He added antivenom was not administered to patients unless they showed signs of poisoning.
Rockhampton Hospital was unable to comment on specifics of Mr Cameron’s treatment.
Mr Flack says the death is a reminder of the dangers of the job at a time when social media videos glamorise snake catchers.
“It may sound a bit overboard but we are putting our lives on the line dealing with a potentially deadly animal so (other) people don’t have to,” he said.
Tributes have described Mr Cameron as a “top bloke”, with family friend Nicole Sloan saying his sudden death was a shock.
“I was talking to him in the afternoon. He went into hospital around five in the afternoon … and then he was gone,” she told AAP.
“He’ll be sadly missed by the people of Rockhampton and Gladstone. He was just a lovely person who did so much for the community.”
Ms Sloan said previous ill-health might have contributed to his death. About 3000 snake bites a year are recorded in Australia, with one or two deaths on average.