*A West Virginia preacher who followed his father into the rare practice of handling snakes to prove faith in God died after being bitten during an outdoor service involving the reptiles, reports the Associated Press.
Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford, 44 — whose own father died in 1983 after suffering a fatal bite — had been bitten before and survived. But he died last week after witnesses say a timber rattler bit him on the thigh. Wolford’s sister and a freelance photographer told media outlets it happened during a Sunday service at Panther State Forest.
Lauren Pond, a freelance photojournalist from Washington, D.C., didn’t immediately return messages Thursday but told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph she was among 25 people at the service. She saw Wolford bitten but said congregants were unfazed.
“I don’t think anyone necessarily expected it,” she told the newspaper, “but they’ve dealt with it before so it’s not such a huge shock, maybe.”
Bluefield Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Becky Ritter said Thursday that Wolford was a patient and died Monday, but that federal privacy laws prevented her from releasing additional information.
Officials at the Cravens-Shires Funeral Home also declined to answer questions, saying the family had asked that the cause of death be withheld. Several relatives did not answer email and telephone messages.
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