Toddler survives rattlesnake bite at Devil's Backbone; Mountain biker helps carry boy to trailhead

'Hey, buddy, you'll be okay,' rescuer told boy

LOVELAND, Colo. - A 2-year-old boy bitten by a rattlesnake at Devil's Backbone Open Space is recovering Thursday, thanks to a passing mountain biker who helped carry the boy to emergency crews at the trailhead.

The emergency happened about 11 a.m. as 54-year-old Joe Spinelli of Fort Collins was riding downhill after a 4-mile mountain bike ride in the Devil's Backbone area west of Loveland.

Up ahead, Spinelli said he saw a petite mother carrying a toddler, who was horizontal in her arms. The mom was unsteady on her feet as she tried to hurry with the boy down the rocky trail. An older son, who was about 5 years old, was walking behind her.   

"I asked, 'Hey, is everything okay?' I didn't get any response. I knew, something's not right," Spinelli told 7NEWS. 

"I didn't know it at the time, but the mom was on the phone with EMTs," Spinelli said.

"I asked again if everything was okay, and the older brother turned and said, 'My little brother's been bit by a snake.' I said, 'Was it a rattle snake?' and he said, 'Yeah.'"

Spinelli told the mother, "Look, I think I can move faster if you give me the kid, and you just take my bike. She turned around and I could just see the anguish on her face. And she thanked me and handed me her baby."

"I just took off down the trail as quick as I could without falling," the man said.

The rattler had sunk its fangs into the tiny boy's lower leg. "I saw the two holes, and there were two lines of blood coming down from the holes. I've never seen anything like," Spinelli said.

The boy began to vomit as Spinelli carried him down the trail. "I tried to keep his head up so he didn't choke. He was limp, I think he was just unconscious," the man said.

"I just kept telling him, 'Hey, buddy, you'll be okay," Spinelli said.

Meanwhile, Loveland firefighters and emergency medical crews were racing to the Devil's Backbone Trailhead.

"Through coordination with the dispatcher and Loveland Fire, we were able to get an idea of how far along the trail…the mother was carrying the child," said Steve Forman, captain of Thompson Valley Emergency Medical Services.

EMTs had also checked with McKee Medical Center in Loveland to confirm it had anti-venom to treat the boy, Forman said.

After carrying the boy for about 1 mile, Spinelli was exhausted by the time he handed him to EMTs, who had met the party just above the trailhead. "I was pretty worn out," he said.

The toddler was rushed by ambulance to McKee Medical Center and later transferred to Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora.

Children's Hospital spokeswoman Melissa Vizcarra said the boy was in fair condition on Thursday afternoon.

"I'm just thankful to hear that he's in fair condition. I just hope that he pulls out of this," Spinelli said.

At this time of year, Forman said, there are more snakes coming out into the open as the weather warms up. He thinks recent flooding in low-lying area is also driving snakes out of their burrows.

 "We have heard reports from people of there being more of them [snakes] on the trails," Forman said.  "People just need to be careful on the trails this time of year. When it's warm outside, snakes want to be in an area that's exposed to the sun and that means they might be crossing more trails, too."

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