Snake Salvation pastor dies of venomous bite

A Pentecostal pastor from Kentucky who featured in the "Snake Salvation" reality TV show has died after being bitten by a venomous snake during a sermon on Saturday.

Jamie Coots of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church, in Middlesboro, had been practising snake handling for over 21 years, believing it to be a biblical call found in Mark 16:15-18, where Jesus says those who believe "will pick up snakes with their hands" and will not be harmed.

Several Pentecostal churches in the US follow this teaching, and Coots was arrested last year on charges of illegally possessing Class 1 wildlife, though his jail sentence was suspended.

Coots, along with Andrew Hamblin of the Tabernacle Church of God in Tennessee, became the subject of a National Geographic reality TV show "Snake Salvation".

He had been bitten several times in the past, but none had been fatal, although on one occasion he did lose part of a finger.

In one episode of Snake Salvation he claimed he would "quit church" if he sought medical help for a snake bite.

He is also quoted as saying: "If the Bible told me to jump out of an airplane, I would."

Coots was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake during a service on the weekend but refused medical treatment from emergency workers, believing that he would be healed. He was found dead on Saturday at 10pm.

Coots is the second member of his congregation to die from a snake bite. Melinda Brown, 28, suffered a fatal attack from a large rattlesnake in August 1995.