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Bitten by two snakes at once — what are the odds?

TAMPA — From his hospital bed Tuesday, John Agan told the world that two snakes bit him at the same time. Experts doubted him. Agan had more to say.

Snakes had bitten him nine times in 10 years, he said.

And local law enforcement reports turn up his name in a trail of calamities: The 46-year-old truck driver was behind the wheel when someone turned in front of him, crashed and died. He was robbed at gunpoint and stuffed into the trunk of a taxi. He's been stabbed.

Listen to him talk, and you'll hear about a hornet attack, old football injuries, his blocked urethra and that time in Little League when he didn't wear a cup. Guess what happened next.

"I got a nickname of Bright Eyes," Agan said. "They said my eyes would have lit up the city."

Is John Agan the unluckiest man on the planet? Or …

• • •

Terrie Jenkins didn't believe Agan. Not when she says he told her he couldn't pay the rent because his boss was in Africa. Not when he told her snakes bit him three times in one month in the back yard.

Jenkins manages the company that rented a house to Agan in Seffner and evicted him this month. She lives next door and says she's never seen a snake in the yard. The last tenants who lived in Agan's house told her they didn't see a snake there in seven or eight years.

She says he told her other unbelievable things, too: He had been shot as a taxi driver. He fell off the roof trying to fix the plumbing and broke his neck. His last home fell into a sinkhole.

Agan said he fell off a ladder, not the roof. He denies that he told her about a sinkhole, or being shot. And he says snakes did bite him in that yard. He says he had witnesses.

"I have nothing to hide," Agan said Thursday, speaking to the Times after his discharge from University Community Hospital.

At a news conference from his hospital room Tuesday, Agan told reporters he had been walking his dog at Seffner's Masters Economy Inn when the dog got away. He said he made his way to a grassy area where two wooden boards rested by a Dumpster.

He said he's not sure if he jostled the board or nudged it, but he felt a sharp, stinging pain in his right shin and looked down to see a 10-inch red and yellow snake gnawing on his foot.

Doctors treated Agan's two wounds as possible pygmy rattlesnake and coral snake bites.

"I am seriously thinking my body puts off some kind of pheromone to attract snakes," he said.

There's no such thing, said Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, managing medical director for the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa. "We're not very good lunches for them because of our size," she said.

You have to be really close for a snake to strike, and if you back away, it won't chase you. They'll bite if you step on them, but they don't actively try to attack people. "This is not Snakes on a Plane," she said.

Encountering two snakes of different species at the same time? Lewis-Younger has never heard of it happening. The snakes don't normally hang out together. The coral snake would more likely have killed the pygmy rattler, she said.

• • •

Agan has heard the rumors. His wife read them on the Internet, he said. People are saying he injured himself to get drugs.

"You're talking to somebody that don't even drink," he said. "Yeah, they gave me good drugs in the ambulance. Once I got to the hospital, they didn't give me any more narcotics. I laid there in the hospital and I hurt the whole time I was there."

When doctors sent him home, he said, "they told me to take Tylenol."

Agan says he's just unlucky.

"My dad was the luckiest guy," he said. "My dad, when he was alive, when they first brought out the Florida Lottery, he hit the Cash 3 the first four days in a row. He hit the Fantasy Five three times within a month."

As for himself, he says, "my wife says she's going to buy me a bubble to live in."

When Agan worked as a truck driver in 2000, a report from the Florida Highway Patrol says a pickup turned into the path of his semitrailer on State Road 60.

The other driver died.

A 2007 Hillsborough County Sheriff's report says Agan, then driving a taxi, picked up two men at 15th Street and Fowler Avenue. Then, he felt the cold barrel of a gun pressing against the back of his skull.

Back then, he told the Times that instinct kicked in. He hit re-dial on the cell phone between his legs, which activated his Bluetooth headset, which allowed his wife to listen to the next — and what he called the worst — 14 minutes of his life.

He gave the men $130, but they hit him, he said. Meanwhile, he was asking out loud where they wanted him to turn so his wife could locate him. They made him stop the car, he said. Then, they stuffed him in the trunk.

His wife called the police, who found him in there, cuts on his face and his head.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies caught no suspects.

On June 5, 2008, Agan drove his taxi to a Tampa Fire station with a butcher knife sticking out of the upper-right side of his chest, a Tampa Police report says. An officer noted the knife was in at a heavy angle, blade pointed toward his shoulder, the handle across his chest.

A passenger had done it, he told police — a man with a teardrop tattoo under his eye. He'd seen the suspect's arm come around his body from the backseat. Reacting, Agan lifted his own arm. Then, he saw he had been stabbed. The man grabbed a few $1 bills and fled.

Agan's injuries healed, and police made no arrest.

"I don't know," Agan says. "It's not bad karma because I haven't done anything to anybody. I've given people free rides in my cab. … I've actually stopped in the middle of an intersection and pushed a lady across the street in a wheelchair."

• • •

On Thursday, hospital spokesman Will Darnall said doctors were awaiting test results to determine how much venom if any entered Agan's blood stream. Darnall said snakes can bite you without envenomation.

When doctors take in a patient, they work with the information paramedics give them, he said.

Tuesday, the only evidence paramedics had of bites were the swelling punctures on Agan's leg and foot.

That, and his word.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Bitten by two snakes at once — what are the odds? 10/29/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 30, 2009 12:20am]

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