A driver had the fright of his life when a three-foot snake slithered out from under the seat of his hire van while he was travelling on a busy dual-carriageway.
Reptile-fearing Ashley Vernon, 34, was travelling to pick up a sofa in a rental van when the orange corn snake appeared from under the seat.
The dad-of-two, from Coniston Way, Croston, was just 15 minutes from the end of his two-hour journey to Stoke when he realised he’d been sharing the van with the slippery hitchhiker.
And the saga got even more dramatic after police coned off the area on the busy road as they tried to capture the reptile.
Ashley, 34, a carer, said: “I was a wreck, I was petrified.
“I’ve got a phobia of snakes, but you don’t expect to see one when you’re driving.”
I thought he was having me on but I looked down and it came out from under Mark’s seat. I really panicked. I pulled over on to the hard shoulder and called the police.Ashley Vernon
Ashley hired the van from Leyland Van Hire, Centurion Way, and was travelling on the A500 on Tuesday with his friend Mark Donnelly, 50, from Leyland.
“We were driving to pick up a suite,” Ashley said. “Then Mark said ‘Someone’s left a walking stick under the seat’.
“Then he realised it was a snake. I thought he was having me on but I looked down and it came out from under Mark’s seat. I really panicked. I pulled over on to the hard shoulder and called the police.
“Mark picked the snake up but it tried to bite him so he shoved it in the glove box.
“By the time the police came, it had gone into the dashboard.
“We took the glovebox out but we couldn’t see it, and the police said we had to move off the road because the traffic was really fast and busy.
“So we had to carry on driving to Stoke, get the settee and drive back to Leyland. I was a nervous wreck.
“I was allowed to have the van until the next day, but I took it straight back.”
Chris Denver, of Leyland Van Hire, said: “I think maybe someone’s moved and lost their pet snake but not told us.
“We called a reptile rescue centre who came to collect it, and they said it’s possible it had been in there for up to three months.
“I’ve been doing this job 20 years and I’ve heard excuse after excuse but never ‘there’s a snake in the van!’”
Corn snakes come from the US but are popular pets in the UK, as they are not poisonous.