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La Jolla man dies from rattlesnake bite during volunteer trout study

October 19, 2010 | 10:28 am

William 'Skip' Price, who died from a rattlesnake bite Wednesday during a volunteer trout study.
Avid fly-fisherman William "Skip" Price died after being bitten by a rattlesnake Wednesday while on a volunteer trout study project along Boulder Creek, west of Lake Cuyamaca near Julian, Calif.

The 67-year-old La Jolla resident was one of six volunteers on a trout project with his fly-fishing club, the Golden State Flycasters.

On-hand to conduct a study of native steelhead, the volunteers were to catch trout in isolated waterways, weigh and measure them, then take a genetic sample and release them, Gary Strawn, another project volunteer, told the San Diego Union Tribune. The purpose of the study, funded by a California Department of Fish and Game grant, was to identify native species and develop a breeding program.

Price, who was wearing water sandles, had just started hiking in the stream bed when he was struck above his right ankle by a large, venomous rattlesnake, Strawn said. Price lost consciousness shortly after being bitten, and his heart stopped. Club members and then paramedics performed CPR, but failed to revive him.

Strawn said he didn’t see the snake, "but it must have been a big one. The bite marks on top of his foot were an inch and a half across."

"His heart quit within minutes because it stopped being able to circulate blood," said Price’s wife, Charlene Chatham Price, after receiving the medical examiner’s report. "They tried to revive him but it was too late."

"I am grateful he didn’t suffer," added Price. "He died doing what he loved to do. We had over 19 incredible and wonderful years together."

Skip Price was known as a friend of conservation and a tireless volunteer, according to a tribute piece by Union Tribune staff writer Ed Zieralski. He was the model of an unselfish sportsman who taught Boy Scout and Eagle Scout troops to fly-fish and also assisted with the Golden State Flycasters Wounded Warriors program at Camp Pendleton, where club members offer free fly-fishing lessons to returning soldiers.

Charlene said she is going to get together with family members and decide how to pay tribute to their patriarch. She said he didn’t want a religious service or big memorial.

"My father used to call them 'going away parties.' We’re going to have a going away party for Skip."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: William "Skip" Price, who died from a rattlesnake bite Wednesday during a volunteer trout study. Credit: Golden State Flycasters