Pastor Jamie Coots, one of the stars of National Geographic reality show Snake Salvation, died on Saturday night from a snakebite during one of this controversial church services. He was just 42 years old. Jamie was the pastor of a church in the Kentucky town of Middlesboro called Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name.
The third-generation “serpent handler” from Kentucky was a Pentecostal pastor who believed that God protects those who are anointed from venomous snakebites, but was ultimately bitten by one of the dozens of snakes he cared for and prayed to. Family members said Coots was overwhelmed by the poison from the bite and died at his home just two hours afterwards.
However, the death of Coots could have potentially been prevented because and his family refused medical attention and sent paramedics away. “It was the quickest snakebite I ever seen in my life,” said his son, Cody. “He always said, ‘Don’t take me to the doctor’ if he was bitten. It was totally against his religion.
Even before Snake Salvation, Jamie had found himself in constant trouble for his devotion to snakes. He nearly died from a rattlesnake bite to his left arm in 1993 and was also bitten on his right hand in 1998. Jamie was also arrested in 2008 for having 74 snakes in his home and given a year of probation last February for crossing into Tennessee with various snakes.
Two deaths from snake bites also occurred at his church in 1995 and 1998, prompting the attorney for Bell County to shut down Jamie’s church over violating Kentucky’s law against handling snakes in church that was created in 1940. The case was a losing battle in court because Judge James L. Bowling refused to move forward with it. He wrote that “although the general public finds snake handling to be a strange and repugnant religious practice … the people who participate in these services believe with all their hearts that God commands them to do so despite the occasional tragic consequences of their actions.”
The National Geographic Channel, who refused to pick up Snake Salvation for a second season earlier this year, also sent their condolences in a statement.
(Photo: National Geographic)