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Copperhead Bites 4-Year-Old

A 4-year-old girl was bitten by a copperhead snake near the C&O Canal towpath near Great Falls on Sunday, June 16.

The girl, four-year-old Hanna Eskeland of Chevy Chase, was taken to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda by ambulance, then to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. by helicopter. At Children's, Hanna received an anti-venom treatment flown in from Manassas, Va. and was released after 36 hours.

Hanna was with her two-year-old brother, Jonas, and their father, Gunnar Eskeland when the snakebite occurred.

"She was crying, 'It pinched me! It pinched me!'" said Gunnar Eskeland. "I thought it was a bee or wasp… but then I saw the snake; I got extremely scared."

Gunnar Eskeland borrowed a bicycle from a passerby and rode with Hanna to the ranger station at Great Falls Tavern. Another passerby dialed 911, and later joined a park ranger to find and identify the snake.

“THE EMERGENCY plan went immediately into action," said Susan Whitecraft, park ranger at C&O Canal National Historic Park. "It was very beneficial that we had everybody in action."

Steven DeLanoy, a member of the C&O Canal volunteer bike patrol, heard of the incident and biked to Great Falls Tavern shortly after Hanna arrived. Park rangers were already administering aid and an ambulance was on its way.

When Hanna reached Suburban, park rangers had called to confirm that it was a copperhead snake that had bitten her.

DeLanoy said this was the first copperhead bite he had seen in three years as a volunteer. "You do see [copperheads] out there," said DeLanoy. "But for the most part, the copperhead is not an aggressive snake."

Hanna's foot was discolored during her hospitalization, but Gunnar Eskeland said its appearance had returned to normal one week later.

"Overall, I think it's a sweet story because everybody did such a fantastic job," said Gunnar Eskeland.