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from Dayton Daily News


Pet snake’s bite kills firefighter

Anti-venom arrives just minutes before death


By Lou Grieco and Brandelyn Hall

DAYTON | A Dayton firefighter died Monday at the University of Cincinnati Hospital after being attacked by a poisonous pet snake Sunday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Michael Peterman, 48, of 2645 Collins Ave. was pronounced dead at 3:17 p.m., the Hamilton County Coroner's office said. An autopsy is planned for today.

An anti-venom flown in from Miami-Dade County in Florida arrived at the Cincinnati airport at 3 p.m., but Peterman died before the anti-venom was delivered to the hospital, said Robert Dees, hospital spokesman.

Peterman was known to Dayton firefighters as a collector of snakes and lizards who was occasionally called out to deal with reptiles.

The snake that bit Peterman was identified as an African rhino viper by exotic animal rescuer Tim Harrison. Harrison, who is also an Oakwood police officer, said the reptile is very aggressive and capable of striking quickly when threatened or hungry.

Harrison, who founded the group Outreach for Animals to rescue exotic animals and to educate the public about them, said he was called by the hospital to identify and take care of the snake after the bite.

He said he believes the attack happened after Peterman accidentally hit the snake while trying to feed it.

The African rhino viper is considered to be one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa. Native to the tropical forests of central and west Africa, the snake can grow up to 4 feet in length. The rhino viper's venom attacks the circulatory system, destroying tissue and blood vessels. Its name comes from the two or three distinctive "horns" it has above each nostril.

The snake that attacked Peterman is at Heaven's Corner Zoo for Endangered Animals in West Alexandria.

Officials with the Fire Department and Dayton Firefighters Local 136 declined to comment Monday.

Peterman was off duty July 31, 1998, when someone found a python under a truck parked at Benham's Caterers and Restaurant at 209 Warren Street, just down the street from Company 11. Firefighters from the station picked up the snake, placed it in a 55-gallon trash can, then called Peterman.

Peterman told the firefighters it appeared healthy and well fed and probably had been someone's pet. He declined an offer to adopt the python because he had no cage large enough.

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