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Snake-handling pastor dies from bite

May 30, 2012 at 1:44 AM

BLUEFIELD, W.Va., May 30 (UPI) -- A West Virginia minister has died from a timber rattlesnake bite he sustained during a snake-handling service, a hospital says.

Mark "Mack" Wolford, 44, pastor of Full Gospel Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka, died Monday at Bluefield Regional Medical Center, The Register-Herald of Beckley reported. He was brought to the hospital Sunday night.

Wolford's father also died from a snake-handling bite when the younger Wolford was a teenager, the Charleston Daily Mail said.

Wolford was bitten Sunday afternoon during a service at Panther State Forest. A nursing supervisor said he arrived at the hospital hours later.

"He was a snake handler," the supervisor told the Daily Mail. "It looked like it happened maybe during church, but by the time he got here, it was a bad situation."

Snake-handling is not banned in West Virginia, and the supervisor said the medical center gets "quite a few bites" resulting from the practice. It comes from a passage in the Gospel of St. Mark in which Jesus says the baptized and saved "shall take up serpents."

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