DATELINE: CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — A pilot in South Africa made a hasty emergency landing after discovering a highly venomous cobra hiding under his seat.
Rudolf Erasmus had four passengers on board the light aircraft during Monday’s flight when he felt “something cold” slide across his lower back. He glanced down to see the head of a fairly large Cape Cobra “receding back under the seat,” he said.
“It was as if my brain didn’t know what was going on,” he told The Associated Press. After taking a moment to compose himself, he informed his passengers of the slippery stowaway. “There was a moment of stunned silence,” he said. Everyone stayed cool, especially the pilot.
After alerting the appropriate authorities on the radio, Erasmus was swiftly given permission to land at the nearest airport.
Upon evacuating everyone safely, the steady-handed pilot said he “stood on the wing on the plane“ to see if he could locate the snake again.
A Cape cobra bite can kill someone in as little as an hour. Erasmus says his first thoughts were for his passengers.
“I was more afraid of what the snake might do. Luckily it didn’t strike anyone, otherwise that would have changed or complicated the whole situation,” he says.
The incident has drawn comparisons to the cult 2006 film Snakes on a Plane, in which an FBI agent played by Samuel L. Jackson lets loose an expletive-laden tirade when he discovers the plane he’s on is full of venomous snakes.