A chef preparing a dish from cobra flesh died when the snake’s head bit him – 20 minutes after it was cut off.
Victim Peng Fan had been preparing a special dish made from the Indochinese spitting cobra, a rare delicacy in Asia where eating snakes is commonplace.
But when he went to throw the serpent’s severed head into the waste bin, it bit him – injecting him with its fast acting venom.
Police say Mr Peng died before he could be given life saving anti-venom in hospital.
Diners who were eating in the restaurant at the time have described screams coming from the kitchen as the tragedy unfolded.
Restaurant guest Lin Sun, 44, who was in the restaurant with his wife Su at the time said: “We were in the restaurant having a meal for my wife’s birthday when suddenly there was a lot of commotion.
“We did not know what was happening but could hear screams coming from the kitchen.
“There were calls for a doctor in the restaurant but unfortunately by the time medical assistance arrived the man had already died. After we heard that we did not continue with our meal.”
A police spokesman said: “It is a highly unusual case but it appears to be just an accident. He prepared the snake himself and was just unlucky.
“There was nothing that could be done to save the man. Only the anti-venom could have helped but this was not given in time. It was just a tragic accident.”
The snake was being diced up to be made into snake soup, which is a delicacy in the area and a much sought after dish in high-end restaurants. China has seen a rising demand for snake products, not only in restaurants but also for use in traditional medicine.
Snake expert Yang Hong-Chang – who has spent 40 years studying cobras – says all reptiles can function for up to an hour after losing body parts, or even their entire body.
Mr Yang said: “It is perfectly possible that the head remained alive and bit Peng’s hand. By the time a snake has lost its head, 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.”
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