MIDDLESBORO, Ky. -- Kentucky Pastor Jamie Coots died Saturday night after he was bitten by a snake, 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.
Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe said Coots was found dead in his home at about 10 p.m. Saturday a snake allegedly bit Coots while he was handling the animal in his Middlesboro church, Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name.
Sharpe said Coots went home before emergency workers got to the church. Officials then went to his house but weren't given consent to treat him or transport him to the hospital. About an hour later officials said they returned to the home, but Coots had passed away.
Another preacher at the church, Cody Winn, said he was right next to Coots when he got bit during the Saturday evening 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 on. Within minutes, he said Coots headed to the bathroom with his son and Andrew Hamblin, an East Tennessee preacher who also handles snakes.
"Andrew said he looked at him and said 'sweet Jesus' and it was over. He didn't die right then, but he just went out and never woke back up," Winn said.
His son, Cody, said his dad had been bit eight times before, but never had such a severe reaction.
He says he thought the bite his dad received Saturday would be just like all 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 says he and a group of people at the church helped carry his father to the car and they brought him back home, where Pastor Coots passed away later that night. Cody said his dad didn't believe in going to the doctor for a snakebite.
A little more than a week from Sunday would have been exactly a year since Jamie Coots pleaded guilty to violating Tennessee's exotic animals law. As part of a plea deal, Coots surrendered his vipers.
Jamie Coots isn't the first to get fatally bitten at the Middlesboro church. Back in 1995, a snake handler named Melinda Brown passed away after she was bit.