(Photo: Screen Grab via YouTube/National Geographic)
Popular snake-handling Pentecostal Pastor Jamie Coots who co-stars on the National Geographic's 'Snake Salvation' TV show died Saturday night after one of his snakes bit him during a church service earlier that evening.
Middlesboro, Ky., Police Chief Jeff Sharpe told The Tennessean that Coots was found dead in his home at about 10 p.m. Saturday after a snake had allegedly bit him during a service at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church in Middlesboro.
Coots, who starred alongside Pastor Andrew Hamblin from LaFollette in 'Snake Salvation,' reportedly left the church before paramedics got to the church.
According to Kentucky.com, the paramedics were called to the church at approximately 8:30 p.m. Saturday to check on reports of a snake bite. On learning that he had left the church, the ambulance crew and firefighters went to Coots' home and warned him of the danger of not seeking medical help. Police said he declined the assistance and the paramedics left his home at 9:10 p.m.
Less than an hour later authorities received a call that Coots had died and he was pronounced dead in his home. Coots was reportedly bitten on his right hand.
Coots reportedly suffered serious bites before. He said he nearly died in the early 1990s when a large rattlesnake bit him on the left arm. In 1998, a rattlesnake he was handling also bit the middle finger of his right hand. On both occasions he refused medical help and survived.
"It's a victory to God's people that the Lord seen fit to bring me through it," he noted the day after he was bitten in 1998.
In August 1995, however, Melinda Brown, 28, of Parrotsville, Tenn., died after she was bitten by a large rattlesnake at Coots' church. Police considered charging Coots with violating Kentucky's law against handling snakes in church. A judge, however, ruled that he shouldn't be prosecuted for practicing his faith.