Eaton and grandson in accident that releases 42 snakes

Forty-two snake, including 10 that were venomous, and one alligator were inside Blaine Eaton’s vehicle when it flipped.

Devine’s well known herpetologist Blaine Eaton and his 9-year-old grandson Curtis Kuykendall, are recuperating after being involved in a serious roll over caused by a blowout on IH 35 North near Kinney Road last Thursday, June 29, 2017. They were in a Mitsubishi Montero Sport on the way to a lecture in SA with 42 of their animals (31 non poisonous snakes, 10 venomous and one small alligator) all in separate display cages. All of the snakes have been accounted for expect one cottonmouth snake which is native to the local area. The alligator was loose but found by a Parks and Wildlife Representative.
Eaton is still in SAMC in intensive care as of press time Monday. According to his daughter Kim Kuyendall, “My dad has at least a 4 to 6 month recovery or more due to 8 broken ribs, a broken sternum, broken clavicle and shoulder, and he is being treated for fluid on his lungs. He remembered the blowout and thought he was off the road safely on the shoulder but the entire tread had come off and the tire wrapped under the vehicle, which then flipped as they went down the incline, rolled twice and landed on the access road upside down.”
His grandson Curtis was treated and released that evening from SAMC with a fractured hand, injured foot, a concussion and lots of scrapes and bruises according to his mother Kim Kuyendall.
“He is a very brave young man. I have gotten lots of compliments from the rescue workers and volunteers on scene about how helpful he was in identifying all the snakes, if they were venomous, and helping get them safely back into cages,” Kuyendall said. “He loves helping his Papa do lectures and traveling around the state with him educating people. In fact just last week Curtis and Papa spent 5 days in Sanderson, Texas at Sanderson Snake Days which is a huge festival that draws people from all over the world, such as England and Africa etc. They got home Tuesday, and the wreck was Thursday. Curtis wouldn’t leave the hospital until he got to see his Papa in person. It was a very busy hospital as the SA police officers that got shot were in the same ER as well.”
“The first people to stop after the wreck helped Curtis out of the vehicle. Art Terrazos’ dad actually was in front of them and saw the wreck, and turned around to come back and help. He, with help, was able to get Curtis out of the seat he was in right behind my dad. Dad was trapped in driver’s seat and rescue workers had to help get him out.”
As they approached Curtis, he was holding his 2.5 foot Indigo snake, his favorite pet. It appears the Indigo was in an aquarium in the seat next to Curtis and somehow it slid into his lap during the first rollover, which they believe helped pin Curtis in place safely, then the aquarium broke on the second roll over. It is his favorite snake which he has always considered his ‘Spirit Animal’, she said. How appropriate that it would help keep him from further injury, not only by keeping him in place, but by protecting him as when they went to get Curtis out of the vehicle. There was a rattlesnake sitting about a foot from him and they believe he sensed the Indigo snake (which loves to eat rattlesnakes) and didn’t bother Curtis.
According to Kuykendall all 42 animals are accounted for. Only 10 were venomous, 7 of those were recovered, 2 died (a pigmy rattlesnake and a copperhead), and only one got away a native cottonmouth snake. All the snakes were eventually returned home to their cages at Eaton’s home in Devine. Friends of Mr. Eaton who are also herpetologists came to the scene to help (Adam Martinez, Eric from the Snake Farm, and Pete) and show the permits Mr. Eaton has to return the snakes home from the Parks and Wildlife Department. The Indigo and the alligator are two that require permits of their own to own and transport.
Others helping at the scene on IH 35 near Kinney Road included Lytle Fire, Somerset Fire, Bexar County SO, DPS, Lytle PD and Animal Control, and many others.
The ESD crew hopes to soon present Curtis with a Heroism Award for his bravery and help after the traumatic accident. Even though he was injured, he helped emergency crews identify and catch the animals that had gotten loose in the wreck….making it safer for volunteers who wouldn’t necessarily know which snakes were venomous or how to catch them.
By KK Calame