Snake-handling reality TV pastor dies from snakebite

Snake-handling reality TV pastor dies from snakebite

SNAKEBITE: In this image made from a video provided by WATE, shows Jamie Coots, a pastor, who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show "Snake Salvation," in Knoxville, Tenn. Coots died Sunday, Feb. 16, after being bitten by a snake. Photo: Associated Press/Jill McNeal

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) – A Kentucky snake-handling preacher who appeared in a television show about the religious practice died of a snakebite after refusing medical treatment, authorities said on Sunday.

Jamie Coots was found dead at about 10 p.m. EST on Saturday at his house in Middlesboro, Kentucky, according to Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe.

Emergency personnel had gone to his home about 90 minutes earlier after getting a call, police said.

They found Coots suffering from a snakebite wound to his right hand, Sharpe said in a statement.

“After examination and discussion of possible dangers if the wound was not treated, treatment and transport to the hospital was refused,” the statement said.

The emergency responders left after failing to persuade Coots to get help but returned less than an hour later, the statement said.

They “discovered Mr. Coots had passed away, apparently due to a venomous snakebite,” it said.

Coots appeared in a National Geographic television show titled “Snake Salvation” about Pentecostal preachers who defy the law to use serpents as part of their religious services.

Snake-handling, which is illegal in most places, is practiced as a test of faith and guided by the theory that true believers will not be harmed.

It is particularly popular in parts of Appalachia. Middlesboro lies near the junction of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee and is about 60 miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Videos on the online site YouTube credited to pastorcoots2012 depict serpent handling services at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church.

They show him and congregation members dancing with snakes in their arms as music plays.

Appearing last year on ABC’s “Nightline,” Coots said he had been bitten nine times, including once that cost him a part of a finger.

“If the Bible told me to jump out of an airplane, I would,” he said on the show.

About a year ago, Coots was charged in Tennessee with illegally possessing poisonous snakes.

As part of a plea deal, he surrendered the snakes and his sentence of just under a year in jail was suspended, according to local media.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jonathan Oatis)

Recent Headlines

in Black Friday, Lifestyle, National

Black Friday crowds thin in subdued start to holiday shopping


America's annual Black Friday shopping extravaganza was short on fireworks this year.

in Black Friday, Viral Videos

WATCH: Holiday parodies of the year’s biggest hits


From "Bad Blood" and "Watch Me," to "Uptown Funk," here are the year's hottest songs made fit for the holidays.

in Music

Adele announces tour


Adele, whose latest album "25" has smashed sales records in its first week of release, announced on Thursday she would begin a 15-week concert tour.

in Music

Eagles confirm musical plans


The veteran rockers are pressing ahead with plans for a Broadway musical centered around their iconic song "Hotel California."


condition Condition: Light rain
Temperature: 55°
High: 46° - Low: 30°