A 78-year-old man declared dead and zipped into a body bag began moving and breathing when placed on a table inside a Lexington, Miss., funeral home. And the local coroner said he believes it's nothing short of a miracle from God.
Walter Williams' family and hospice nurse called authorities Wednesday evening to report that the Lexington man had died. Holmes County Coroner Dexter Howard told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that he arrived and checked the body, which showed no signs of a pulse or heartbeat. Williams was zipped into a body bag, and transported to Porter & Sons Funeral Home, where he was placed on a table for embalming.
"Once we got to the funeral home ... and got him on the table, he began to move and his legs began to kick and he began to take long, deep breaths," Howard said. Williams was then rushed to a local hospital and stunned family members were notified.
"I said 'What do you mean?'" Williams' nephew, Eddie Hester, told WAPT-TV, as he described his reaction to the shocking turn of events.
Howard said he has been the coroner for a decade and was the deputy coroner before that. He said he's never had anything like this happen before in his career, and has only one explanation for it.
"I would say it's a miracle from God," Howard said. "It's beyond me. I don't know. It's beyond me."
Howard said he understands he's likely to get grief from some folks.
And he said he has replayed the scenario in his mind, and believes he did everything right.
"All family members were there, present," he said of his arrival at Williams' bedside. "I checked him, the hospice nurse checked him." He added that one of Williams' relatives is a registered nurse and also checked the body.
"I know I did my job," he said. "I went and did my job, that's all."
Howard said he's not surprised by the intense media interest, as the story has gained momentum in the online world, with "back from the dead" headlines.
"It's life after death, so to speak," Howard said. "So that would actually draw attention."
A man who answered the phone at the funeral home Friday told The Times that no one was available to discuss the incident.
Such incidents, while the stuff of nightmares, are exceedingly rare. But when such stories do occur, they are hair-raising for obvious reasons. Last fall, a story out of China made headlines: A baby boy who had reportedly been declared dead only to be found alone and crying inside a funeral parlor.
We have reached out to some medical experts for their insight into the incident in Mississippi and will update this post accordingly.
What do you think happened? Tweet me @renelynch