(MEDICINE HAT, Alberta) — When officers told Melody Halls, 31, that her husband died early Tuesday morning in a motorcycle accident, she went immediately to the first stage of grief: denial.
And she was right.
Two Alberta, Canada, police officers and a grief counselor arrived at Halls’ Medicine Hat, Canada, home and told her to sit down. Once they asked whether her husband had tattoos, they told her he’d been killed in a 1 a.m. collision, Halls told ABC News.
“As soon as he said that, I knew something was wrong. … I’d seen my husband at 7 a.m.,” Halls said. “It was instant disbelief because it’s the worst thing that anyone can ever say to you — that your husband has been killed this morning.”
Halls’ husband has tattoos on his forearm and calf, but the officers told her the accident victim had tattoos on his stomach and back, strengthening Halls’ conviction that her husband was alive.
Halls led the officers out to the garage.
“Sure enough, the door to our shed was open and the lock was missing off of it,” she said.
The motorcycle and helmet were gone.
Police determined the motorcycle had been stolen, and the thief — whom police have not yet named, but Halls said was a neighbor — died in the accident.
“Although efforts were made to identify the victim of the collision based on the information available at the time, the Medicine Hat Police Service sincerely apologizes for the distress that was caused to the family of the motorcycle owner, when they were incorrectly notified,” Medicine Hat Police Service Deputy Chief Richard Wigle said in a news release.
The service will be reviewing its next-of-kin notification practices, according to the police statement.
With officers in and out all day, Halls had to tell her 9- and 10-year-old children about the mix-up. They were mostly shocked at the thought of losing their father, she said.
As for her husband?
“He’s really upset about his motorcycle being stolen more than anything,” she said. “And that somebody died crashing it.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Ray Sanchez, Zayn Nabbi, Euan McKirdy and Angela Dewan, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN