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Bombshell after man’s ‘snake bite’ death

Donald (Donny) Morrison died after going into cardiac arrest at a school reunion on September 9, 2023 in Koumala, Central Queensland. Picture: Facebook
Donald (Donny) Morrison died after going into cardiac arrest at a school reunion on September 9, 2023 in Koumala, Central Queensland. Picture: Facebook

The cause of the death of a hero Queensland grandad who rushed to save a mate from a deadly brown snake remains a mystery.

Donald Morrison went into cardiac arrest on Saturday evening after he removed what witnesses believed was an eastern brown snake from a friend’s ankle during a school reunion in the small town of Koumala in Central Queensland.

It was reported Mr Morrison, 68, was killed by a snake bite, but his family revealed on Thursday his autopsy did not show any snake venom.

“We have received preliminary findings from the coroner’s office which confirm that there was no snake venom in Donny’s system,” the family said in a statement.

“This therefore rules out snakebite as a contributing factor or cause of death.

“It is believed that Donny may have had an underlying medical condition that he was unaware of.

Donald (Donny) Morrison’s death remains a mystery. Picture: Facebook
Donald (Donny) Morrison’s death remains a mystery. Picture: Facebook
Donald Morrison went into cardiac arrest on Saturday evening after he removed what witnesses believed was an eastern brown snake from a friend’s ankle during a school reunion in the small town of Koumala. Picture: William West / AFP)
Donald Morrison went into cardiac arrest on Saturday evening after he removed what witnesses believed was an eastern brown snake from a friend’s ankle during a school reunion in the small town of Koumala. Picture: William West / AFP)

“We offer our heartfelt thanks to all first responders and the many members of our Koumala community who provided assistance on the night.

“These past few days have been exceptionally distressing for the family and we kindly ask for privacy during this time to grieve our loss and bid farewell to Donny.”

Investigations continue into the cause of Mr Morrison’s death.

The 68-year-old was attending centenary celebrations at Koumala State School, where he had previously studied, when he was bitten.

Mr Morrison’s family said he had been bitten by the snake while removing the reptile from the crowd after pulling it off a friend’s ankle.

Donald Morrison, top left, was attending the centenary celebrations at his former school when he was bitten. Picture: Daily Mail
Donald Morrison, top left, was attending the centenary celebrations at his former school when he was bitten. Picture: Daily Mail

Emergency services were rushed to the scene and treated Mr Morrison for about 30 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

Paramedics believe that a snake may have bitten Mr Morrison on the arm, after initial reports indicated he had been bitten on the chest.

It is understood Mr Morrison’s physical state quickly deteriorated after the snake attack, before he later went into cardiac arrest.

Queensland Ambulance Deputy Commissioner Claire Bertenshaw told The Courier Mail anti-venom dosages were on their way before he died.

Koumala State School. Picture: Facebook
Koumala State School. Picture: Facebook

Mr Morrison’s friend, 65-year-old Lloyd Younger, was taken to Mackay Base Hospital in a stable condition and released on Sunday.

Mr Younger is believed to have suffered a dry bite, which is when a snake bites a person but does not release any venom.

Brown snakes are considered highly dangerous, having the second most toxic venom out of any land snake in the world.

A 2017 report found that out the 35 snake-related deaths since 2000, a staggering 23 were linked to brown snakes.

Koumala State School in Central Queensland. Picture: Google Maps
Koumala State School in Central Queensland. Picture: Google Maps

The tragic death triggered an outpouring of grief in the remote northern Queensland community.

On Monday, Mr Morrison’s family paid tribute to him and thanked the attendees who tried to save his life.

“We all enjoyed ourselves, especially Donny who was really happy to have caught up with so many old friends,” his family said.

“We would like to thank everyone involved with the incident involving Donny, people pulled together in an attempt to resuscitate Don but unfortunately were not successful.

“We are sorry that the incident led to the event being shut down early.”