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Snake-handling U.S. pastor dies from bite

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, 2014, after being bitten by a snake. (AP PHOTO/WATE, Jill McNeal)

MIDDLESBORO, Kentucky: A snake-handling pastor who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show “Snake Salvation” has died after being bitten by a snake during a weekend church service in Kentucky.

Jamie Coots was handling a rattlesnake at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro when he was bitten on the hand Saturday night, another preacher, Cody Winn, told WBIR-TV. After the bite, Coots dropped the snakes, but then picked them back up and continued. Within minutes, Winn said Coots headed to the bathroom.

When an ambulance arrived at the church at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, they were told that Coots had gone home, the Middlesboro Police Department said in a statement. Contacted at his house, Coots refused medical treatment.

Emergency workers left about 9:10 p.m. When they returned about an hour later, Coots was dead from a venomous snakebite, police added.

The pastor’s son, Cody Coots, told the television station that his dad had been bit eight times before, but never had had such a severe reaction. The son said he had thought the bite would be just like all the others.

In January 2013, Coots was caught transporting three rattlesnakes and two copperheads through Tennessee. Wildlife officials confiscated the snakes, and Coots pleaded guilty to illegal wildlife possession. He was given one year of unsupervised probation.

Coots said in February 2013 that he needed the snakes for religious reasons, citing a Bible passage in the Book of Mark.

In 1995, 28-year-old Melinda Brown, of Parrottsville, Tennessee, died after being bitten at Coot’s church by a 4-foot-long timber rattlesnake.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 18, 2014, on page 10.

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