LUCKY: Snake-bite survivor Frank Howell, of Goonellabah, won’t go home until he’s sure his uninvited guest is gone.
LUCKY: Snake-bite survivor Frank Howell, of Goonellabah, won’t go home until he’s sure his uninvited guest is gone. David Nielsen

Snake terror for pensioner

GOONELLABAH man Frank Howell didn't know what hit him when he awoke in his lounge chair at 3am last Wednesday.

“I thought someone had belted me on the back of the hand with a broom handle,” the shaken pensioner said.

Mr Howell was bitten by an unidentified snake in the lounge room of his Mountain View Drive home, but did not fully comprehend what had happened until much later that day.

Groggy and tired he went to bed, only to wake at 7am with a 'violent headache'. He continued with his plans for the day, which included driving to Coolangatta to be with his wife, who recently suffered a stroke.

“Basically I did everything wrong and the doctors said I am a very lucky man, so I wanted to warn others. I've been so incoherent and am only coming out of the stupor now,” he said.

Mr Howell was admitted to Tweed Hospital on Wednesday afternoon. The hospital confirmed his case was serious, that he was treated for an unidentified snake bite and had sustained local tissue damage.

After nine hours, Mr Howell was discharged and returned home only to realise with a chill on Saturday there was no way a snake could enter or exit his heavily screened home except through an open door.

Having not left a door open since the attack, he knew whatever had bitten him was probably still there.

He has moved into a motel until he can locate the reptile and has had a builder confirm there are no other possible entry or exit points.

Local reptile handler, George 'the Snake Man' Ellis, is familiar with such scenarios and said he has pulled a lot of deadly eastern brown snakes from Mr Howell's area recently. He offered to assist Mr Howell find the snake, or snakes - as he put it ominously.

“It's been a crazy snake season this year and there's much worse to come,” he said.

“Unless you're an expert the only way to respond to them is do nothing. Just wait. Whether it's five minutes or five hours, do not move. You don't see snakes biting trees, do you? I suggest to everyone to put my number on speed-dial and just wait for me to get there.

“I had a woman from St Helena call me to say she'd woken with two large red-bellied black snakes in her bed. Luckily she froze, though in terror. She reached for the phone beside her bed and called me and I made her promise not to move an inch until I got there.”

Mr Ellis described another time where a man had an eastern brown wrapped around his leg and someone tried to beat it off with a rake. He was saved by his thick work trousers.

“That's just stupid. It's like running into a bikies club and calling them all pansies,” he said.

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