A couple in Alaska Karen and Jay Priest, had embarked on a visit to their son’s long-time girlfriend on Thursday, October 9, 2014 with the intention of informing her that her boyfriend had died in a car crash.
To their greatest surprise and astonishment their supposedly dead 29-year-old son, a private fisheries biologist in Anchorage, Justin Priest, opened the door.
It was then they realized that it was a mix-up as they were misinformed by the Juneau police that their son had died after a car accident.
According to Karen Priest, as reported in National Post, her husband broke down in sobs as soon as their son surfaced while she was frozen with shock of the scene which she referred to as “Emotional Roller Coaster”
While she narrated the event on Friday, October 10, 2014, “There are no words; we just kept staring at him,” she said
Their supposedly dead son said he’d gotten up at about 5:30 a.m to release his 9-week-old puppy and was near the door when his parents and brother knocked. He opened the door and they began to shout.
It was learnt that the family of Priest reside outside of Palmer and at about 3 a.m on Thursday, October 9, 2014, their dogs began to bark loud enough that they were forced to wake up from. A knock at the door followed and a peep through the window revealed a man with the drill sergeant hat of an Alaska State Officer.
“He knew right away, the dread. It’s not good when a trooper knocks on your door at three o’clock in the morning,” Karen Priest said.
According to them, the trooper broke the news of Justin’s alleged death in Junea following a car accident.
The trooper gave the couple a Juneau police phone number and when they called, an officer said Justin’s car had crashed into a tree at high speed.
Karen said, “That didn’t sound like Justin”.
The officer said they were currently carrying out investigation which to her implied alcohol use, and “that didn’t sound right either”, she said.
They immediately started to reach out other relatives to inform them about the development.
The family drove to Anchorage which was about 45 miles to inform another son, Cody.
However, Karen revealed that when the news was broken to him around 4:30 a.m., Cody collapsed.
Furthermore, the parents drove with Cody to find Justin’s long-time girlfriend, Julia,in order to break the sad news to her.
Justin’s father knocked on the door, “It opens and right here is Justin. I don’t even see it but Jay is sobbing. It doesn’t compute to me. Then I see him,” she said. “You want it to be true, but you go, ‘Am I hallucinating?’ Justin didn’t know what was going on.”
“I didn’t know why they were yelling and screaming,” Justin Priest said. “I was mostly asleep. They were yelling, ‘Praise Jesus! It’s a miracle!’”
Initially, Justin thought his parents were victims of a scam or a related incident as it took him a while to come to terms with what was happening.
After “lots of hugging, lots of tears,” he called Juneau police to tell them they had identified the wrong Justin Priest.
Juneau police have apologized for the grief the mistaken identity report caused the family and are reviewing audio tapes and other records to discover wher the problem was coming from.
“I’m almost speechless for words,” Chief Bryce Johnson said. “This shouldn’t happen.”
“Police wanted troopers to contact the Priest family to find out if the crash victim was their son. The request was unclearly transmitted or misinterpreted, and the officer took the assignment as a death notification, “Johnson said.
“We have to take responsibility for that,” Johnson said. “It was our case.”
Meanwhile, the spokeswoman for Alaska State Troopers, Megan Peters said the message they got was for a death notice.