Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman tragically died on Thursday as a result of liver failure. It’s believed that he was slowly recovering from a spider bite, which almost caused him to lose an arm, but it proved to be more serious than initially thought. Two years later, the world lost a legend. Here’s what you need to know about that fatal bite.
1. Jeff Hanneman Was Bit by the Spider Two Years Ago
Jeff Hanneman was allegedly bit by the spider in February 2011. Although he did not see the spider, he noticed what seemed to be a bite on his arm while he was drinking a few beers in a hot tub at a friend’s house in the Inland Empire region of California.
“Didn’t even feel it,” Hanneman said. “But an hour later, I knew that I was ill.”
2. He Failed to Seek Immediate Treatment
Hanneman did not seek treatment until it was almost too late. By the time he arrived in the emergency room, the guitarist said he was an hour away from his death.
3. Hanneman Contracted Necrotizing Fasciitis
After the bite, Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease that can develop from just a cut or a scratch, caused by a type of strep germ. The infection can destroy muscle, fat and skin and may require surgery to save a patients life.
4. He Almost Lost His Arm
According to the Slayer website last year, Hanneman underwent several operations to remove the infected tissue from his arm. A statement described what Hanneman went through before making a courageous recovery.
“As you know, Jeff was bitten by a spider more than a year ago, but what you may not have known was that for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go. There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn’t know if he was going to pull through at all. He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm. So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape.”
5. Infections by Flesh-Eating Bacteria are Rare
It’s estimated that around 750 necrotizing fasciitis cases occur each year. About 1 in 5 people with the most common case die.
6. Hanneman Died of Liver Failure
According to Slayer spokeswoman Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald, the guitarist died at age 49 on Thursday as a result of liver failure at a Los Angeles hospital. The news broke through a press release on the band’s Facebook page:
Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed.
Our Brother Jeff Hanneman, May He Rest In Peace (1964 – 2013)
The flesh-eating disease does not cause liver failure by itself, but at least one type of strep bacteria can cause streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, which can lead to liver failure.
7. His Spokeswoman Blamed the Spider Bite for His Death
Although the spider bite happened two years ago, Robinson-Fitzgerald ultimately blamed the spider bite for his death. However, it is unclear whether an autopsy will be scheduled.
8. But Experts Say it is Unlikely He Died From a Bite
Experts tell ABC News that it is unlikely that an infection that occurred two years ago contributed to his liver failure, or even that a spider bite happened at all. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and chair of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says that the original infection would not have lasted this long. Also, Hanneman believed that he was bitten by a brown recluse spider, but expects say that possibility is low. The guitarist said he was in a hot tub at the time of the bite, but recluse spiders tend to avoid humans while they are active.
“They’re named recluses for a reason, they don’t come out,” said Dr. Doug Yanega, senior museum scientist at the Entomology Research Museum at the University of California-Riverside. “If he was up and about and walking around, it was unlikely to be a spider bite.”
9. He Was Writing Songs for a New Album This Year
During his recovery, the guitarist was in the process of writing songs for a new album to be released at the end of the year.
10. He Was a Founding Member of Slayer
Hanneman was one of the founding members of heavy metal band Slayer. He formed the band in 1981 in Southern California with fellow guitarist Kerry King. Slayer was known as one of the “big four” thrash metal groups of the 1980s, along with Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica.