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US man declared dead begins breathing in embalming room

A 78-year-old man from Holmes County, Mississippi, was declared dead and a Coroner was called over at his home. However, he woke up in a body bag just before being embalmed.

world Updated: Mar 04, 2014 21:21 IST

A 78-year-old man in the US who was declared dead at his home woke up in a body bag just before being embalmed.

Walter Williams, from Holmes County, Mississippi, was declared dead and Coroner Dexter Howard was called over at his home.

Howard received the call from Williams' hospice nurse, who told him that Williams had passed away. A family member called as well, saying the same.

Howard and Byron Porter from Porter & Sons Funeral Home in Lexington, drove to Williams' home to collect the body for funeral preparations.

Howard checked Williams' pulse last Wednesday and pronounced him dead.

"There was no pulse. He was lifeless," Howard was quoted as saying by CNN.

The coroner completed his paperwork, placed Williams in a body bag and transported him to the funeral home, he said.

There, something strange happened, the body bag moved.

"We got him into the embalming room and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking," Howard said. "He also began to do a little breathing." They immediately called an ambulance. Paramedics arrived and hooked Williams up to monitors. Sure enough, he had a heartbeat, so they transported him to a hospital.

"They were in shock. I was in shock. I think everybody at the hospital was in shock," Howard said.

Howard is an elected official and not a doctor. More than 1,500 counties in the United States elect coroners and most do not require medical degrees.

Neither in his 12 years as county coroner nor during his decade as deputy coroner has Howard seen anything like it. Howard was absolutely certain Williams was dead.

The only reasonable explanation he could think of, Howard said, is that Williams' defibrillator, implanted beneath the skin on his chest, jump-started his heart after he was placed in the body bag.

"It could've kicked in, started his heart back," Howard said. "The bottom line is it's a miracle." Overjoyed family members are thanking God for saving the life of the longtime farmer they call "Snowball." Howard visited Williams last Thursday at the hospital and said he was still "a little weak" but was surrounded by family members and talking.

First Published: Mar 04, 2014 21:15 IST