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‘Snake Salvation’ Star Dies After Snake Bites Him and He Refuses Medical Attention

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Jamie Coots, snake-wielding pastor and star of National Geographic TV’s “Snake Salvation,” died Saturday after a poisonous snake bit him and he refused to seek medical attention.

Coots was a pastor for a Pentacostal church in Middleboro, Ky., that is part of a sect of Christian churches profiled in the show where pastors handle snakes and worshippers believe faith will protect them from the snake venom, according to The Wrap. Coots was bitten on his right hand Saturday night during a service but didn’t go to the hospital even after he was urged to do so by firefighters and an ambulance crew, Kentucky’s Lexington-Herald Leader reported.

Emergency crews left Coots' house at 9:10 p.m. Less than an hour later, Coots had died.

National Geographic Channels, which airs the show, issued a statement:

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“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.”

It wasn’t the first time Coots was seriously bitten—he told the Lexington-Herald Leader he nearly died in the early 1990s after a rattlesnake bite, and he was bitten by another rattlesnake in 1998, losing a finger at one point from one of his bites. Even though Kentucky outlaws handling poisonous snakes in religious services—and though the church has seen another fatal snake bite, of Melinda Brown, 28, in 1995—the law is rarely enforced, as a judge threw out possible charges against Coots after the woman died, saying it would infringe on his religious rights.

We’re eerily reminded of reality TV star Steve Irwin’s death in 2006 by a stingray barb to the heart.