"It bit me 4 times repeatedly...then it stuck in my hand"

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

BIG SANDY, TX (KLTV) - Five months later, 17-year-old Rusty Van Wert is still shaken by the bite he got from a venomous cottonmouth.

"It bit me four times repeatedly and then it stuck in my hand," said Rusty.

He and a classmate were taken to a Tyler hospital and given anti-venom, but the family still has a lot of questions as to just how this happened and what was done about it.

"The teacher never came over looked at it or nothing," said Rusty.

"They did not call 9-1-1 when it happened, he was not sent to the nurse right away, and they took him in a personal vehicle," said Dee Askew, Rusty's mother.

And they didn't take the snake.

"It took four hours to identify it then another two hours to get the anti-venom for him," said Rusty's mother. "We didn't know whether he was going to make it or not."

And Rusty said the snake was often handled by students.

"Before us, there were pictures of people kissing the head of this snake," said Rusty.

He was hospitalized for five days, endured four weeks of rehab and the family faces massive medical bills. They also do not have insurance. They sought legal council and got a surprise.

"[I am] very angry, very shocked," said his mother. "They're not responsible or liable for anything that happens to your child at school."

Under Texas law, schools have legal immunity for accidents due to actions of an individual.

"He still has nightmares about this," said Dee. "He has not gotten an apology that they have done something wrong."

We talked with the Big Sandy School District who said that because of the incident, all animals in the science lab are locked in display cabinets, and they only take animals from reputable wildlife sources.