Snake-handling preacher Jamie Coots, was quick. But this time the snake was quicker and inflicted a fatal bite to the 42-year old during services at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Name Church in Middleboro, KY Saturday. Coots was bitten in the right hand by a 2-1/2-foot long rimbr rattlesnake, but refused medical help and was pronounced dead about two hours later.
"It was the quickest snakebite I ever seen in my life," recalled Coots' son, Cody, who stated that his father was handling three rattlesnakes near the pulpit at the time.
“He became sick real fast, and said his face ‘felt like it was on fire,’ then went to the bathroom to throw up. By the time I went to get my car keys so I could drive him home he was unconscious,”, his son said."He said, 'My face feels like it's on fire,'" Cody Coots said. .As Cody Coots went to get his car keys so he could take his father home, Jamie Coots lost consciousness.
According to Cody Coots, said his father “had been bitten more than half a dozen times since beginning to handle snakes at age 23,” nearly dying in 1993 after a large rattler sunk its fangs into his left arm. He had survived serious bites before. Jamie Coots had told the Herald-Leader that he nearly died in 1993 when a large rattlesnake bit him on the left arm, and again in December 1998, when he suffered a bite to the middle finger of his right hand. Despite recovering, the end of the finger eventually died and “fell off.”
In both cases, Jamie refused medical treatment, exclaiming “It's a victory to God's people that the Lord seen fit to bring me through it."
In fact, Jamie Coots never backed away from his strong religious beliefs despite pain, public derision and several criminal charges including the illegal transportation, purchase and selling of snakes in several states.
Jamie Coots' death appears to be the first from a snakebite in a Kentucky church service since November 2006, when a woman died after being bitten while worshipping at a Laurel County church.
Prior to that Melinda Brown, a 28-year old woman from Parrotsville, TN died after being bitten on the arm by a large rattlesnake during church services in August 1995. Her husband John Wayne Brown died of snakebite while worshipping at a church in Alabama three years later. Both had refused medical treatment after being wounded.
Although the local sheriff sought to file charges against Coots for violating Kentucky's law against handling snakes in church at the time of Melinda Brown’s death, Judge James L. Bowling reportedly refused to sign the order, stating, "Although the general public finds snake handling to be a strange and repugnant religious practice, there is no question in my mind that 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."
Note: It is estimated that approximately 7,000-8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, with most deaths occurring anywhere from 6-48 hours unless treated with anti-venom within 2 hours after the bite.