A SNAKE fanatic from Eastwood has been killed by one of his King Cobras just days before his new snake sanctuary was due to hold a special open day to the public.
Luke Yeomans – who dedicated his life to breeding reptiles and was known worldwide for his expertise – had a grand opening event at the new snake sanctuary planned for tomorrow, Saturday July 2.
But on Wednesday he was bitten by one of the sanctuary’s 24 King Cobras, suffered a heart attack and died.
One of the workers at the sanctuary, based on a farm in Brookhill Leys Road, said: “He was a smashing bloke. It doesn’t seem real. It’s a nightmare.”
An air ambulance landed in Jubilee Park at about 2pm, but 45-year-old Mr Yeomans was pronounced dead on the scene and was taken away by ambulance.
Mr Yeomans, who had been fanatical about snakes since he was a child, was Eastwood born-and-bred and used his farm outbuildings to breed snakes, other reptiles, and the insects that fed them.
Fran and Lesley Brown, of Addison Villas, shared Mr Yeomans’ passion for snakes and knew him well.
Mrs Brown said: “It’s gutting. We’re still in shock. It’s made me ill.
“He was so knowledgable. I don’t know how this has happened.”
The couple used to buy locusts off Mr Yeomans to feed their pet snakes and lizards.
Mr Brown knew him for over 20 years and said he had ‘devoted his life’ to what he did leading him to become internationally renowned for his expertise knowledge and breeding.
He added: “It’s a massive shame. A massive loss. Everyone knew Luke. He’s so famous with reptile breeders and zoos. I would like to know a tenth of what he did.”
The 38-year-old, of Addison Villas, said Mr Yeomans had been looking after some of his King Cobras for decades.
“I don’t know which Cobra killed him but he has had one of those for 20 years,” he said.
“When I first started going down there it was about three foot long and it’s about 12 foot long now.”
Mr Brown said the last time he visited the farm Mr Yeomans was taking part in a breeding programme with an endangered species of alligator.
He said the reptile fanatic had written several books, invented a pair of gloves for handling snakes that had recently gone on the market, gave talks at Reptile Society meetings and had contacts worldwide.
“He is so well known because he has had that many dealings with thousands of people,” he added. “It was on Facebook within 20 minutes of him dying.”
Peter Butler, who lives next door to the farm, said: “He has always had snakes from being a small boy. Even at ten he had grass snakes.
“He has been bitten before, several times, and has always had anti-venom. We’re really shocked that it has actually killed him. It’s very sad.”
The snake was taken away by the RSPCA and police are investigating the circumstances surrounding Mr Yeomans’ death. Broxtowe Borough Council and the Health and Safety Executive were also informed.
Mr Yeomans began working on the sanctuary in 2008, in reaction to the depletion of the snakes’ natural habitat in the forests of south-east Asia and India.
His mother, June, passed away four years ago and was an Eastwood town councillor and an ex-Mayor of the town.