Man returning from SC trip bitten by rattler in luggage

McLEAN, VA (NBC) - A Virginia man is recovering after finding a deadly surprise in his luggage.

Andy Bacas was hospitalized after a snake he said he found in his suitcase bit the palm of his hand.

Arlington County Fire and Rescue was called Bacas' home after the snake bite.

Bacas, an Arlington County Public Schools coach, was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he spent the night.

He is in fair condition.

Bacas had just returned from a bus trip to a camp in Summerton, South Carolina with the Yorktown High School boys' crew team he coaches, and the snake was in his suitcase when he opened it.

Arlington County naturalists positively identified the snake as a juvenile canebrake rattlesnake.

The snakes are common in South Carolina but not in Virginia, where they are an endangered species.

"It does not belong here," said Arlington County senior naturalist Greg Zell. "It's not its natural habitat. They do occur in Virginia, but only in the southeast corner of Virginia."

Bacas' high school crew team spoke out about what happened to its coach.

"Those bags might have been outside for an hour," crew coach Drew Thiemann said. "I don't think it was even that long. I can only imagine that that's when that happened. Some snake came out of the woods or came out of the rocks and slithered into his bag."

"That's just something where it's one in a million chance," crew member James Herring said. "You're just unlucky."

Crew practice was canceled on Monday afternoon when the team learned of the accident.

"What we were told to do if we find a snake, just back up, not too fast," crew member Laus Schmidt-Rose said. "Leave the room and get someone to help you."

Wildlife experts said the snake was most likely seeking warmth when it slithered into Bacas' bag.

Animal control used a fire extinguisher to freeze the snake, which killed it.

Experts say if you encounter a snake slowly back away from it, and call for help.

Posted by Bryce Mursch