By KAYLA STRAYER
6 News Reporter
MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WATE) - Jamie Coots, a preacher known for snake-handling, as well as being the focus of a reality TV show, died Saturday after being bitten by one of his snakes.
The 42-year-old died at his Middlesboro home after a rattlesnake bit him during his Saturday evening service at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name.
Coots starred in the reality show "Snake Salvation" on the National Geographic Channel. He was also a mentor to Andrew Hamblin, a snake-handling preacher in Campbell County.
For nearly two decades, Coots handled snakes while preaching.
"We use them in our religious ceremonies and I believe as for me, if I don't
have them there to use I'm not obeying the word of God," Jamie Coots said in an earlier 6 News interview.
Middlesboro Chief of Police Jeffrey Sharpe says Coots was bitten by a rattlesnake on his right hand sometime before 8:30 Saturday night. But when help arrived at the church, Coots had already been taken home by his family.
"Everybody that knows Mr. Coots knows what his belief is, and he had no intention of going to the hospital. They did in fact refuse treatment," Sharpe said.
Authorities left the house after spending about half an hour trying to convince his family to accept help.
"Then I would say about an hour later we got the call to come back, that he had passed away," Sharpe said.
Sharpe says Coots and his family believed he would be healed through prayer.
"I liked him a lot. I don't agree with his interpretation, but you just have to have a tremendous amount of respect for his determination to follow his beliefs. I mean that's what he believed and he would not step away from it," Sharpe said.
The pastor's son Jamie Coots saw the snake bite his father last night.
"The snake that bit him, we've been carrying it for four months. It's been carried hundreds of times and handled all kinds of times. But when it's your time to go, it's just your time to go," Cody Coots said.
Cody says while they're in shock, his family will stand strong in their beliefs.
"I don't think it's dangerous. It's the word of God. We've always said it's a good way to live by and it's a good way to die by," Cody Coots said.
Cody Coots is expected to keep his father's ministry going.
Coots was pulled over in Knoxville for the unlawful possession of poisonous snakes. Sharpe says all of Coots' permits were up to date, and he was not breaking the law Saturday night.
Coots' Receiving of Friends will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Creech Funeral Home in Middlesboro. His funeral will follow at 8 p.m.
441 Murfreesboro Road Nashville, TN 37210
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