Gilbert Usher is known as the snake man of Belize. The Lucky Strike resident is a tourist attraction around the Altun Ha Maya Ruin where he engages in all sorts of scary maneuvers with snakes - putting them in his mouth, having them slither all over his head, and freely handling super poisonous snakes such as the Tommy Goff. Well, tonight the news is that a Tommy Goff bit him, and doctors say he might not make it. Police say that it happened on Sunday morning, and he was rushed to the KHMH. This is the scene at the Boom cutoff where he was transferred to an ambulance. Doctors say he is very critical and police report that he is on life support, and may be taken off that tonight.
And, so, while his prognosis is grim, we note that in 2008, Usher was bitten in the face by a Tommy Goff, and he survived. He keeps the snakes as his pets.
He is known as the Snake Man from Maskall Village in the Belize District; mostly because he somehow has a fascination for the reptilian creatures and at most times is seen carrying one of his elongated pets with him. Tonight, however, Gilbert Usher is in the Intensive Care Unit at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City where he is listed as critical after a Tommy Goff snake bit him. A Tommy Goff snake is a Belizean name given to the Fer De Lance snake and is dubbed one the most venomous snakes in Central America with the ability to inject up to one hundred and five milligrams of poison in one bite. Interestingly, that is twice the amount capable of causing death. Usher was bitten yesterday; the circumstances remain unknown but we know that he is critical and a source indicated to us that he may be taken off life support in the coming days. Usher was being rushed to the hospital when he was met by a BERT ambulance near mile fifteen. Back in 2008, Usher was bitten by a Tommy Goff but had recovered after Internist Doctor Jorge Hidalgo had injected him with anti-venom. In that incident, Usher was in a medical coma for seventy two hours.
Critically ill Lucky Strike “snake man” not so lucky with Tommy Goff
Gilbert “Baldhead” Usher, also known as “Snake Man,” is clinging to life at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), after he was bitten, for a second time in 8 years, by a Fer-de-lance, one of Belize’s most venomous vipers, known locally as the “Tommy Goff.”
Reports to Amandala are that Usher is currently on life support, and as of 4:00 p.m. today, Usher was still listed in a critical condition at the KHMH’s Intensive Care Unit.
Usher, who is a resident of Lucky Strike Village, located on the old Northern Highway, was deported from the United States several years ago and earns his living by taming snakes, which he displays to tourists who visit the Altun Ha Maya temple area.
In late July 2008, Usher was showing off a Tommy Goff to a Canadian family, in front of his Lucky Strike home, but as he was explaining how dangerous the Fer-de-lance venom is, the snake crawled up his chin, posed in a striking position and bit him on his nose.
The show ended, as Usher quickly told the tourists: “I’ve just been bitten. I have to go and get help.”
He ran up the stairs, still carrying the snake that had just bitten him along with a Boa constrictor (locally known as the “wowla”) around his neck.
About a minute after he went into his house, he fell on the floor and was unable to get back on his feet.
The frightened tourists got into their waiting taxi and left. This Amandala reporter went into the village and alerted villagers that the snake man had been bitten by a Tommy Goff.
Villagers began to gather outside his house and a vehicle came to take him to the hospital, but did not have enough gas to make it to Belize City, so a 911 call was placed and a Belize Emergency Response Team (BERT) ambulance was dispatched to meet the vehicle carrying Usher.
After about two weeks in the hospital, Usher survived that first attack.
Amandala had inquired where Usher had sourced the Tommy Goff, which was killed along with the more than a dozen snakes he had inside his house. We were told by a woman, Shan Jones, that she saw the snake in her yard and had called Usher to remove it.
The woman said she advised Usher against keeping the snake, but he had assured her that he could tame it.
Yesterday’s transportation of Usher was similar to the first time he was bitten: a BERT ambulance intercepted the vehicle transporting him around Mile 15, Amandala was told.
Gilbert Usher, more commonly known as Snakeman, makes his living by performing dangerous stunts involving snakes - putting them inside his mouth and letting them slither all over his body. He is a popular tourist attraction in Lucky Strike Village, a couple hundred yards from Altun Ha. But on Sunday, one of the most poisonous snake in the world, a Fer De Lance, known locally as Tommy Goff bit him, and he has been in a coma ever since. That's where he remains tonight and the KHMH will only say that he is, quote, "very critical." But how did a man who has so much experience in snake-handling get bitten by one? Emanuel Pech visited Lucky Strike village today to find out:...
Gilbert Usher has been handling snakes for most of his life. He keeps several of them as pets including a large Tommy Goff which he has been raising for the past 3 years. But on Sunday, another Tommy Goff, smaller than the one he keeps as a pet, bit him. Floyd Herbert is a woodcraftsman of Lucky Strike Village. He told us he was working when Snakeman arrived at his place with his latest catch.
Floyd Herbert- Friend/Eyewitness "Well I was right over there sitting in that chair. I was making some walking sticks - these same walking sticks right here, when this guy came and he told my friend that he had something to show him and I see him come with this same bag right here and he start to open it. But my friend told him if it's a snake don't bring it here. He got up and he moved away."
Carlton Conorquie - Friend/Eyewitness "I told him 3 times if you have a snake in that bag don't open it. He said wait, I have a little one. He took his hand a push it inside and he set the bag over here and when he push in his hand, he took out the snake like this. The snake was like this small and he held it in this hand. The snake put his body like this - like 2 feet away from him. But the snake was sliding through his hand and then he went like this to hold it. When he went like this to hold it, the snake bit him and he threw the snake right down there."
Snakeman attempted to gain control of the snake but the Tommy Goff struck again. This time Floyd was ready. He killed the snake using one of these staffs. From then, everything went South very quickly for the iconic snake man.
Floyd Herbert - Friend/Eyewitness "He took a piece of string out of his pocket and he told me to hurry tie his hand which I did. He told me to tie it tight and when I finish tying it, he grab that same chair right there, because he told me he feel dizzy. This happened like less than 30 seconds. He grab that same chair right there and he sat down and that's it. I see he just east backway and he went all the way down until his head touch the ground and I got a piece of tarp that I had and I put it right down here and we put him to lie down on that and from that moment he went unconscious and he never did wake up back."
Reporter "Is there anything else you guys could have done?"
Carlton Conorquie - Friend/Eyewitness "No. We know we could give him some medicine because we live here out in the bush and we couldn't get it in his mouth, because we have a thing that we called "Bizzy" that we give them. But we couldn't give it to him, because he was like already dead. He was just trying to breathe."
Snakes were more than a muse for Gilbert Usher, they were his bread and butter. It's unfortunate, many residents say, that his own livelihood might now be leading to his own demise.
Floyd Herbert - Friend/Eyewitness "I was just telling people that he got to be careful, because we said supposed it was a tourist or something? Because he has lots of different snakes at his house. That's how we make his money, which I don't have anything against him. But he pick the wrong snake to do business with and a snake like Tommy Goff - that's not a snake to play with."
In 2008, Usher was bitten on the face also by a Tommy Goff. He survived that encounter but his friends fear for the worst this time around.
Floyd Herbert - Friend/Eyewitness "This one I see with this snakeman, from the time he left from here, he still didn't get back conscious, so I don't know if he will make it. Just God could work a miracle for him."
Reporting for 7 news, I am Emanuel Pech.
And while the KHMH press officer tells us he is very critical, we're reliably informed that he is, in fact, stable - and that he has been taken out of an induced coma…so, the prognosis may be more encouraging than first thought, and Snakeman may yet live to tell the tale of another snake bite.
Yesterday we told of the case of Gilbert Usher also known as Snake Man who was bitten by a Fer del Lance snake, commonly referred to in Belize as a Tommy Goff. We were in error when we told you that he was on life support when in fact, he was in an induced medical coma. Tonight Usher is listed as stable at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital and is responding to the doctors and nurses although up to news time he wasn’t fully conscious. While Usher is in the hospital recovering from a second such incident, we spoke with his friend, Floyd Herbert who was the one who took Usher to meet the ambulance on the Maskall Road. Herbert was also with Usher when the incident unfolded.
“When the ambulance got here it was about 12. We were at my workshop where I was making some walking sticks. He passed by and shouted for my friend telling him that he had something to show him. I didn’t know that it was a snake he would bring. My friend told him not to come close if it was a snake that he had. He insisted on bringing a bag and he opened it. When he opened the bag he pushed his left hand in there and he took out the snake which was a Tommy Goff and he took it out and put the bag on the table. The snake was trying to wiggle out his hand but he tried to hold the snake’s head with his right hand and when he put his hand near the head that is when the snake bit him on his right hand. He didn’t get jumpy or anything all he did was took out a piece of string from his pocket and he told me to tie his hand tightly. About a minute after that he told me that he felt dizzy so he grabbed a chair and he sat down and the last thing he asked me is if I could take him to the hospital. I told him yes after that I just saw him faint backward and fell unconscious and that was it. No he wasn’t swollen, just about ten minutes afterward his hand got blue and that sort of thing. When I was taking him to meet the ambulance he started to vomit blood and some green stuff. We met the ambulance almost near the Boom junction.”
“So you had already called an ambulance?”
“Yes my sister had already called an ambulance.”
According to Herbert, having these snakes as pets is one way that Usher makes his living as it is some sort of an attraction to the tourists who visit the Altun Ha ruin in Lucky Strike Village, Belize District.
“Well he has the snakes at a different location from where he lives. He lives through the other old Rock Stone Pond Road but he has a friend by the name of Calvin Gillharry, he does carving also and since the tourists pass near here he just brings out his snakes and he makes them take pictures. He has at least about 6 different kinds of snakes. This morning I had one of the biggest boas, he had one about seven feet long and I had it and they were taking pictures of it. He had some other ones in a barrel. I’ve known him for a very long time and the only thing I know him to deal with is snakes, that’s all does. That is how he makes his little income.”
Back in 2008, Usher was bitten by a Tommy Goff but had recovered after Internist Doctor Jorge Hidalgo had injected him with anti-venom. In that incident, Usher was in a medical coma for seventy two hours.
Belize’s snakeman, Gilbert Usher is improving at the KHMH tonight. Officially, the hospital is saying that his condition has been upgraded from critical to stable, but we have learned that he is out of an induced coma and doctors expect a full recovery. Doctors expect to take him out of the intensive care unit tomorrow.
As we reported to you yesterday, Usher, the famous snake man, was bitten on the wrist by a Tommy Goff. He had just caught the snake and took it to a friend's house to show off his latest catch. But when he slipped the snake out of the bag he was carrying it in, the Tommy Goff struck him. Seconds later the Usher was on the ground- the venom quickly spreading through his body. It happened on Sunday morning and he was rushed to the KHMH, where his condition was listed as “very critical.”
But, in just a few days, that prognosis has changed, and If he does make a complete recovery, this will be the second time Snakeman Usher has survived a bite from the highly poisonous Tommy Goff. In 2008, he was snake-bitten in the face, but made a full recovery.
No more poisonous snakes! That's what snakeman Gilbert Usher declared today at the KHMH. After five days in the hospital, Usher was finally able to speak to us about what happened last week Sunday. Usher told us he doesn't remember much - only that he had a Tommy Goff snake for 3 years and Sunday was the first time he took it out to show anyone. And that's the last thing he remembers. Today, Usher told us it will be the last time he takes that snake, or any other poisonous snake out, for that matter -because those days are over.
Gilbert Usher, "I was bitten by Tommy Goff "There comes a time when yeah, if I keep dealing with venomous snakes, one day I might just cash out. I can't recall what happened. I had that snake for about 3 years."
Courtney Weatherburne "The very same snake that bit you?"
Gilbert Usher, "I was bitten by Tommy Goff "Very same snake for 3 years and I can't recall what happened. All I knew that everyone comes to see me, I am here and this and that - whatever. But as far as dealing with the deadly snakes, no. I could deal with the burrows and all the different non-venomous snakes. First time I ever took him out for show. It will be the last time too."
Courtney Weatherburne "Sir, I see the joy in your face when talking about these snakes. You are so passionate about it. But you said that this will be the last time. It's hard to believe."
Gilbert Usher, "I was bitten by Tommy Goff "No. It's not hard to believe because I got a strong mind. Now, my mind is very strong. If I say I am going to do something - I've said it before, but this time I have to mean it. If I don't mean it, you got to put me in a box. I feel great. Truthfully I feel great. My body is back in health. My strength is coming back gradually and I could say I feel good."
As you heard, the free spirited Usher is doing just fine and will be released on Monday. Usher says he will keep his non-venomous snakes because that is how he makes his living. The Public Relations Officer at the KHMH says this is the 4th time they have treated Usher for snake bites. He also told us Usher is lucky to be alive because everytime the anti-venom is administered it becomes less effective. Usher told us if it wasn't for the KHMH treating him again - he probably wouldn't have made it.