Three generations of Ruperts entered the dense woods in rural Oglethorpe County last Saturday morning, rifles in hand.
Patriarch Dick Rupert, 68, loved these hunting trips with his son Russell and grandson Chad, though they'd spend much of the day apart, perched in their tree stands amid the familiar solitude.
Rupert, who lived in Winder with his wife of 50 years, escorted grandson Chad to the boy's tree stand around 7:30 a.m. With the 12-year-old safely situated, Rupert headed for his own quiet place in the woods. A sharp, shooting pain in his calf stopped him cold.
"I think I just got bit by a snake," he told his grandson. Chad heard the rattle.
He would later tell Oglethorpe County deputy corner Howard Sanders that he was scared to come down from the stand.
But with Chad's father out of earshot and cellular phone service unavailable, the 12-year-old knew that he was the only one who could help his grandfather, who was already drifting into and out of consciousness.
"The grandfather was a large man, and this is a 12-year-old boy,” Sanders said. Chad persevered.
They managed to make it to their four-wheeler, but Dick Rupert was fading fast, falling off the vehicle twice. Chad's father, Russell Rupert, heard them from his tree stand and helped his son drive to a nearby house, where they called 911.
The nearest ambulance was 20 miles away, Sanders said. Dick Rupert's son and grandson administered CPR, but he was non-responsive. Rupert was pronounced dead at Wills Memorial Hospital in Washington, less than an hour after he was bitten.
He is the second person to die from a snake bite in Georgia this year. On average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, snakes kill only 10 Americans a year. Oglethorpe County Coroner James Mathews said it’s possible Rupert suffered a heart attack after he was bitten.
Rupert's family could not be reached for comment Tuesday. They were attending his funeral in Winder.
"It was really sad seeing that grandson beat himself up," Sanders said. "He kept saying ‘I was trying to help granddaddy. I was trying to help granddaddy.' "
"I told him, and it's true, that he did all he could've done," Sanders said.
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