(WBIR) Kentucky Pastor Jamie Coots died from a snakebite Saturday night, according to officials and family members.
Coots starred on the reality show "Snake Salvation" alongside Pastor Andrew Hamblin, from LaFollette, who was recently in court for TWRA citations for snake-handling. The National Geographic show profiled the Pentecostal, serpent-handling preachers' fight to keep their religious traditions alive.
Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe said officials discovered that Coots died in his home at about 10 p.m. Saturday after a snake reportedly bit his hand at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name. Coots left the church and went home before emergency personnel arrived. Officials then went to Coots's house, but the pastor denied medical treatment, according to Chief Sharpe. About an hour later, officials said they returned to his home, but Coots had already passed away.
Another preacher at the church, Cody Winn, said he was right next to Coots when the snake bit him during the service.
"Jamie went across the floor. He had one of the rattlers in his hand, he came over and he was standing beside me. It was plain view, it just turned its head and bit him in the back of the hand before, within a second," Winn said.
He said Coots dropped the snakes, but then picked them back up and continued the service. Minutes later, Coots, his son and Andrew Hamblen went to the bathroom.
"Andrew said he looked at him and said 'sweet Jesus' and it was over," Winn said.
His son, Cody, said he has suffered eight snakebites before, so his family thought this recent one would be like the others.
"We're going to go home, he's going to lay on the couch, he's going to hurt, he's going to pray for a while and he's going to get better. That's what happened every other time, except this time was just so quick and it was crazy - it was really crazy," Cody Coots said.
Cody and members of the congregation carried his father to the car and took him home where Coots passed away later that night. Cody said his dad didn't believe in going to the doctor for a snakebite.
Sunday marked nearly a year since Jamie Coots pleaded guilty to violating Tennessee's exotic animals law. As part of a plea deal, Coots surrendered his vipers.
Coots isn't the first to die from a snake bite at his Middlesboro church. Melinda Brown passed away in 1995 from a snake bite.