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Severed cobra head bites, kills Chinese chef

Headless Indochinese spitting cobra bites and kills Chinese chef.
Headless Indochinese spitting cobra bites and kills Chinese chef.Wikimedia Commons by Danny S.

A Chinese chef was reportedly killed recently when a severed spitting cobra head bit him. According to the New York Daily News on Saturday, Peng Fan had just decapitated the snake for use in a soup but didn't immediately dispose of the severed head. Apparently, the cobra's reflexes persisted nearly 30 minutes after its death and allowed the head to clamp down on the chef's hand, injecting enough venom to kill him.

The Indochinese spitting cobra is generally found in Southeast Asia and is considered a delicacy in China. Fan had cut off the head of the 5-foot long venomous snake 20 minutes prior to being attacked. When he went to throw the head into the waste bin, it bit him. The Stir by CafeMom reported that a cobra's reflexes can remain for as long as an hour after its death.

A guest at the restaurant, 44-year-old Lin Sun, who was there with his wife, said that they could hear screams coming from the kitchen. "We were in the restaurant having a meal for my wife's birthday when suddenly there was a lot of commotion." Sun went on to say that after they had heard the chef had died, they did not want to finish their meal.

Other guests report they did not know what was happening but were asked if there was a doctor in the restaurant. Unfortunately, according to police, Fan died before medical help arrived. Said police, "Mr. Peng died before he could be given life saving anti-venom." A police spokesman said that the incident was an unfortunate accident and that Fan had a severe reaction to the flesh-killing, neurotoxic venom.

The deadly spitting cobra is a sought-after dish in high-end Chinese restaurants and is prized for its alleged power to cure ailments. Yang Hong-Chang, a snake expert with over forty years' experience, said that all reptiles can function for up to an hour after losing their body. According to the expert, both the body and head can move after they are severed. 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," said Hong-Chang.

Fan was dicing the cobra to be made into snake soup. Police report that he prepared the snake himself and was just unlucky. "Peng was reportedly tossing the cobra head into the trash when it came back to bite him," said authorities. They went on to say that there was nothing that could be done to save the man. "It was just a tragic accident."