Horror of chef killed by snake bite 20 minutes after chopping its head off

Soups made with the flesh of deadly spitting cobras are considered a rare delicacy in South China – but preparing it turned out to be a fatal move for one chef.

Peng Fan, from Foshan, was proud to have it on his menu and was preparing the dish for diners when an unusual tragedy happened.

Having decapitated the Indochinese Spitting Cobra, he spent 20 minutes making the soup, then started tidying the kitchen. He picked up the head to throw in the bin when suddenly, it bit him.

The venom from spitting cobras is particularly nasty stuff.

It contains neurotoxins which can kill within 30 minutes, paralysing the victims and suffocating them to death. Anti-venom is available but must be taken quickly.

Restaurant guest Lin Sun, 44, said: ‘We were in the restaurant having a meal for my wife’s birthday when suddenly there was a lot of commotion.

Snake soup – a delicacy in China and the Far East

“We did not know what was happening but could hear screams coming from the kitchen.

“There were calls for a doctor in the restaurant but unfortunately by the time medical assistance arrived the man had already died.

“After we heard that we did not continue with our meal.”

A police spokesman said of the incident, which happened in 2014: “It is a highly unusual case but it appears to be just an accident. Mr Fan had a very severe reaction to the bite.

“There was nothing that could be done to save the man. Only the anti-venom could have helped but this was not given in time.

“He prepared the snake himself and was just unlucky. It was just a tragic accident.”

Experts say snakes and other reptiles can still make reactive movements for up to an hour after being killed.

One said: “It is perfectly possible that the head remained alive and bit Peng’s hand. By the time a snake has lost its head, it’s effectively dead as basic body functions have ceased, but there is still some reflexive action. It means snakes have the capability of biting and injecting venom even after the head has been severed.”

In some countries it is believed eating snake meat has mystical health benefits, which has led to some species being hunted almost to extinction.

Don’t get too close – the world’s most venomous snake, the Inland Taipan

Spitting cobras are not known for usually biting their victims, as their name suggests they prefer to attack from range.

Such cobras can spit their venom for up to nine feet and scientists have proven they always aim for the eyes.

For years it was believed this was an old wife’s tale, but German scientists have proved the snakes only tend to spit at moving faces, and did not react to hands being waved in front of them, or photos. When the venom enters the eyes it can cause blindness.

And the snakes are true sharpshooters. In the experiments black-necked spitting cobras hit at least one eye eight out of ten times, while Mozambique cobras hit their target every time.

In the league table of lethal snakes, the saw-scaled viper is ranked as the world’s biggest people killer. While others have more powerful venom, the snake is common in Africa and bites quickly when threatened.

The most toxic snake is the Australian Inland Taipan whose venom can cause paralysis and death within 30 minutes.

But British people suffering from Ophidiophobia – an extreme fear of snakes – are relatively safe on these shores.

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The UK has just one venomous snake – the adder – and its bite is rarely fatal. Over the last 70 years there has only been one death from a snakebite in the UK when when a five-year-old was bitten on the ankle in Scotland in 1975.

In that same period, bees and wasps have killed more than 60 people.

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