‘Snake Salvation’ TV Star Jamie Coots Dies After Being Bitten

The National Geographic reality show pastor led congregations that believe faith will save them from venom

Jamie Coots, a star of the National Geographic TV reality series “Snake Salvation,” died Saturday after being bitten by a snake and refusing medical treatment.

Coots was one of two pastors from a Pentacostal church in Middleboro Ky. featured on the show about snake handling at a sect of Christian churches in Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee, where worshippers believe faith will protect them from the venom of poisonous snakes.

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Coots death was confirmed to TheWrap Sunday by the National Geographic Channels, which issued this statement:

“National Geographic joins his family, friends and community in mourning the loss of Pastor Jamie Coots. In following Pastor Coots for our series Snake Salvation, we were constantly struck by his devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced. Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith. We were honored to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

Coots was bitten on his right hand Saturday night by a snake, according to Kentucky’s Lexington-Herald Leader. An ambulance crew and firefighters tried to talk Coots into going to the hospital, but he refused treatment, according to the report.

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Coots had suffered serious bites twice before. He told the Herald-Leader that he nearly died in the early 1990s when a large rattlesnake bit him on the left arm, and in 1998, a rattlesnake he was handling suddenly struck the middle finger of his right hand.

Coots refused treatment for the excruciating bites in both of those cases.

“It’s a victory to God’s people that the Lord seen fit to bring me through it,” he said the day after the bite in 1998.

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Coots’ church was the site of a previous fatal snake bite in August 1995. Melinda Brown, 28, of Parrotsville, Tenn., died after she was bitten on the arm by a large rattlesnake. After her death, police considered charging Coots with violating Kentucky’s law against handling snakes in church, but a judge said Coots should not be prosecuted for practicing his faith.

Brown’s husband, John Wayne “Punkin” Brown, 34, later died after being bitten by a rattlesnake in church in Alabama.

Kentucky has outlawed handing poisonous snakes in religious services since 1940, but the law is rarely enforced because of reluctance by authorities to prosecute people for their religious beliefs.