A Pentecostal pastor and star of the reality TV show “Snake Salvation” died of a snakebite on Saturday after he refused medical treatment.
Pastor Jamie Coots, a third-generation “serpent handler” of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middleborough, Ky., appeared on the National Geographic Channel. Coots and other cast members handled copperheads, cottonmouths and rattlesnakes during church services.
Paramedics were called to Coots’ church on Saturday around 8:30 pm. When they arrived, Coots had already left the church and gone to his home nearby. When an ambulance crew went to his house, he refused to receive medical treatment, despite being warned of the danger.
Paramedics left the residence at 9:10 pm. Coots was pronounced dead in his home less than an hour later.
Coots sustained bites in the past. He reportedly nearly died from a rattlesnake bite in the early 1990s. He always refused treatment, even when his arm swelled to twice its size and part of his finger rotted and fell off.
"Even after losing half of his finger to a snake bite and seeing others die from bites during services," he "still believes he must take up serpents and follow the Holiness faith," the NatGeo website said of the pastor.
Coots' grandfather founded the church and his whole family participated in snake handling. In the video below, Coots' wife, Linda Coots, explains how she feels when she handles venomous snakes.
"When you handle serpents, it's one of the best feelings I've ever felt in my life. It's like a peace and a calm, a happiness ... you can just feel the joy in your soul that you just don't feel all the time every day," Linda Coots said.
The show, which premiered in September, also features Pastor Andrew Hamblin of the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn.
"My job as pastor is to kindly keep myself and my flock in line, and to do what we feel is right according to the word of God,” Coots said in an August release. “To me it's as much a commandment from God when He said 'they shall take up serpents,' as it was when he said 'thou shall not commit adultery.'"
One of Coots’ churchmembers, 28-year-old Melinda Brown, died in August 1995 from a rattlesnake bite. Police wanted to charge Coots with violating a Kentucky law against snakehandling in church, but a judge threw out the complaint, according to the Lexington Health-Leader. The judge said Coots shouldn’t be prosecuted for practicing his faith.
Warning: The following video contains graphic images. Viewer discretion is advised.