Family remembers man bitten by timber rattlesnake - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Family remembers man bitten by timber rattlesnake

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Ernest Burch, 80, was an amazing man to his family and the community he loved. On Tuesday, he died after he was bit on the upper left arm by a timber rattlesnake.

Burch was with a friend at his Armuchee home when he came across the snake in the car port.

His family explained that Burch loved all animals and would never kill the snake, so he tried to sweep it out of the garage. At some point Burch lost his balance, tripped and fell on top of the snake.

"At first he didn't realize he had been bitten," Janet Baker, his daughter, said. "Then he told his friend he thought he was having a heart attack."

A few minutes would pass and Burch would lose consciousness. He survived for more than 30 hours and went through eight vials of anti-venom, but could not be revived.

"We thought he was going to pull through," Connie Elder said.

The lifelong Floyd County resident spent most of his life as an educator. Burch retired as the superintendent of the Polk County School District and spent the rest of his time with family.

Burch has lived in his Armuchee home for more than 40 years. His children said they don't remember a time when rattlesnakes came out so soon.

"We've seen thousands of snakes all our life, but to see one in May this close to the house, it was the first time I ever remember," Baker said. "We've seen them in late July. But, with the water flowing off those mountains this valley fills so quickly. It is disturbing all creatures. They are all out of their environment, where they've been living, so they are searching for another place to hide to go."

The Department of Natural Resources said snakes could find other places to hunt if the rain moves their prey to higher ground. At this point, wildlife officials said they have not seen an up-tick in rattlesnakes near homes.

Burch eloped with his wife Patricia when they were teenagers. They celebrated 62 years of marriage on May 31. For the past eight years his family said that Burch took care of Patricia, who has late stage Alzheimer's. All of his children said his humor will never be forgotten.

"Our dad taught us to laugh," Baker said. "He was a prankster, a jokester, he loved to scare us, he taught us to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously."

Burch was a big supporter of a nonprofit that helps children who are the victims of sexual abuse.

The family asks in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the nonprofit Heroes, Great and Small.

Burch is survived by his six children, 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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