Elderly Tasmanian farmer killed by giant 1.4m tiger snake

A Tasmanian farmer was killed by a giant tiger snake that wrapped around his body and bit him multiple times, a coroner has ruled.

Winston William Fish, 78, died from multiple organ failure after he was bitten by the 1.4m tiger snake on his sheep farm in Hobart, according to the coroner’s report completed last month.

He’d been working on the property on January 28 this year, using a quad bike with his dog Mac, when he encountered the tiger snake. It bit him and coiled tightly onto his arm and around his body. Mac then ran back to the home without Mr Fish, where he lived with his long term friend Judy Hall.

“Ms Hall, who was present at the residence, thought that Mac’s return alone and his unusual behaviour indicated that something had happened to Mr Fish,” coroner Olivia McTaggart wrote.

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Mrs Hall drove to look for the farmer, and found him lying on the ground next to his quad bike, with the snake has “latched onto his right hand, with Mr Fish holding its head with both hands to squeeze it”.

“She saw that it had wrapped around Mr Fish’s right arm up to his neck and its body was moving around.” The elderly farmer was still conscious at the time.

Ms Hall then called for help from their neighbour, Greg McDermott, who arrived with his son Adam McDermott and friend Sam Lyall.

Adam said in an affidavit the group observed the “large black snake” which he said was coiled around his arm.

The group eventually were able to free it from Mr Fish’s body, by cutting its head off with a knife.

The group then called a local doctor and an ambulance who arrived “fairly quickly”.

When the ambulance arrived he was given tiger snake antivenom, and flown to Royal Hobart Hospital, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.

Sadly, he did not recover and died on January 30.

Dr Donald Ritchey, the state’s forensic pathologist found the farmer had died from multiple organ failure as a result of the snake bites.

The coroner Olivia McTaggart called Mr Fish’s death a “tragic but rare occurrence”.

“The risk of death from snake bites to members of the public is extremely low,” he continued.

“There have been three deaths from snake bites, including Mr Fish, since 1948.”

The coroner conveyed her sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the farmer.

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