In the wee hours of Oct. 9, Karen and Jay Priest of Palmer, Alaska were woken up by the barking of their dogs and someone knocking on the door. Peeking through the window, Jay knew right away that something is wrong because their unexpected visitor was wearing the uniform of an Alaska State Trooper.

The man indeed brought sad and shocking news: the couple's 29-year-old son Justin had died in Juneau. The couple were then handed the contact number of the Juneau police, who informed them that their son, a private fisheries biologist in Anchorage, died after crashing into a tree while driving at high speed. The officer the Priests talked to also informed them that investigation was currently ongoing.

Karen, however, said that the details of their son's accident and death, including the implied alcohol use and travel to Juneau, do not seem to add up because these do not sound like Justin. Still, the couple decided to inform their relatives and their other son, Cody, who fainted after hearing the sad news at 4:30 a.m.

Karen, Jay and Cody then decided to drive to Justin's girlfriend of five years, Julia, to personally inform her of the news but instead of Julia answering the door, it was Justin, alive and well.

"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," Karen related, adding that what happened was an emotional roller coaster.

It turned out it was a case of mistaken identity. The Juneau police had mistaken Justin for another Justin Priest, who had indeed met an accident, but while both shared the same name, they had different ages, birthdays and middle names.

Juneau Police Chief Bryce Johnson has apologized for the mistake and taken responsibility. The police requested the troopers to ask the Priests if the crash victim was their son, but the mix-up may have happened when the request was not clearly transmitted or misinterpreted, Johnson said. As a result, the assignment was erroneously interpreted as a death notification.

"I was shocked and astonished and had to keep grabbing him and hugging him," Jay said. "I never cried so much in all my life."

The police said they have already notified the family of the real crash victim.

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