Man who was declared dead turns up alive after his family receives someone else’s ashes
Back in September of 2023, the family of Tyler Chase received the tragic news that the 22-year-old had died of a drug overdose.
As told by several news outlets, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office of Portland, Oregon had found Chase’s wallet and used the temporary license, which had his name but no photo, at the scene, which they used to identify the body. They then showed up to the family’s home with a death certificate and an urn holding the young man’s ashes.
Or so they thought.
In actuality, Chase was very much alive. As KGW News reported, Chase had been receiving treatment for drug addiction at a recovery program at the time his family had been told he passed.
Having been estranged from his family for several years prior, he hadn’t considered reaching out, and had no idea a mistake had been made until he had issues getting his food assistance benefits.
“I go to DHS, and they asked me to enter my social security and everything, and they were like ‘alright we’ll see if we can help you fix this,’” Chase told KPTV. “And then all of the sudden they start interrogating me and were like ‘Oh can we see your ID?’ So I gave it to them and then they just looked as confused as I was and they’re like ‘right here it says you are dead.’”
As for how the mix-up happened, the Medical Examiner’s Office suspects that the man who actually died from an overdose must have met Chase at the recovery center, where he stole his wallet.
“So, they find a paper ID of me that’s smudged and everything and they were like ‘that’s Tyler John Chase,’ so they put him down as me,” Chase recalled. “And then they notified the family like protocol.”
Understandably, after hearing the news that Chase was, in fact, alive, months after being declared dead (he even FaceTimed them to prove it) and that they had been holding onto a complete stranger’s ashes, Chase’s family was stunned, to say the least.
“I just lost it,” shared Latasha Rosales, Chase’s cousin. “It is so hard to believe how something like this could even happen. It just makes no sense to me.”
But as the office explained to KGW News, most medical examiner’s offices do not have viewing rooms for families to come and identify the body, like we typically see on television. Instead, families “view their loved one and confirm their identity at the funeral home making the arrangements.”
When Chase’s family had to decline viewing the body prior to cremation, the office only had the temporary ID to go off of.
This is why, after apologizing to Chase and his family for the mistake, the medical examiner’s office promised to launch a “comprehensive review” of its current practices in order to implement a policy change on its investigations. One of those future changes will be requiring fingerprints to be submitted for identification when a body is found with a temporary ID.
Though the correct identity of the deceased man was eventually found, the family asked to keep the information private.
Being mistakenly declared dead is a very rare occurrence. But when it happens, it can wreak havoc on financial resources like health insurance and credit cards. And getting the mistake corrected is a lengthy process. According to a statement given to NBC Washington by the Social Security Administration, less than one-third of 1 percent of the millions of deaths reported each year are actually corrected.
Hopefully Chase is able to get back to normal faster than most, and his family is able to come together after such an ordeal.
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