News

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 Local

Korean War veteran buried in Ithaca

Sgt. Michael James Barra was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in Ithaca Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

Sgt. Michael James Barra was buried in Ithaca Saturday.

in Local

Spencer-Van Etten school bus driver faces charges

school_bus

Details about the alleged incident haven’t been revealed.

in Local

Three arrested in violent Halloween home invasion in Cortland County

Greg Hatch, 24, of Van Etten, Ian Burke, 19, of Spencer, and Jennifer Kelly, 18, of Spencer

The suspects are all due back in Cortlandville Town Court next week.

in Local

After epic snow, floods and roof collapses are concerns

New York State Police provide an escort for Suffolk and Nassau County Department of Public Works trucks headed for Buffalo (photo courtesy of New York State Police)

Warmer weather and rain are in the forecast, and that's making people in the Buffalo area nervous.

in National

Making headlines this week

AP333203377986

A look back at the biggest newsmakers this week and the headline you may have missed.