An Alaska couple, who had been told by police that their 29-year-old son had been killed in a car crash, were overcome with joy just hours later when they discovered him alive and well at his home in Anchorage, officials and media said on Friday.
In a case of mistaken identity, an officer arrived at the couple's Palmer home some 50 miles outside Anchorage at about 3 a.m. on Thursday and told them that their son, Justin Priest, had died in a Juneau car crash a few hours earlier, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
The grief-stricken parents, Jay and Karen, then drove to Anchorage to deliver the news of their son's death to his brother, Cody, and to Justin's long-time girlfriend, who lived with him.
But Justin answered the door instead and was equally startled to see his parents and brother crying and shouting at 5:30 a.m., the Alaska Dispatch News reported after interviewing the family about the mix-up.
"It's Justin! Praise Jesus, we thought you were dead," the newspaper quoted his father as saying at the time.
"You're alive!" his mother shouted, according to the newspaper.
The Juneau Police Department said it had contacted the wrong Priest family while trying to identify the next of kin for 33-year-old Juneau resident Justin Donald Priest, who was the real victim from the Wednesday evening car crash.
His vehicle struck a tree, police said. A woman passenger, 30, was treated for minor injuries and another passenger, a 50-year-old man, was taken to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Juneau police notified the real victim's family on Thursday afternoon, and Police Chief Bryce Johnson apologized in a statement for the error and "for any anguish our mistake has caused."
"It's horrible that a family had to experience that," Peters said.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler)