After 14 Years, Car Crash Victim Gets Surprise Christmas Reunion With Long-Lost Family

Fourteen years ago, James Dailey awoke from a coma hardly knowing who he was. But he knew who he wanted to see.

"The first thing he started asking for was his family," Tamara Cribben of Aging Solutions in St. Petersburg, Fla., told

Dailey had been in a hit-and-run car crash, and spent eight months in a coma. He had no identification, but caregivers concluded from missing persons reports that he most likely was James Lee Dailey, and when he came out of the coma he was able to confirm his name -- and insisted he had family in Pensacola and Detroit, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

But no relatives couldn't be reached. Over the past 14 years, Dailey reportedly would speak fondly of his relatives, telling people about his sister, Charlie Mae, his other four siblings and his son and daughters.

That all changed this Christmas. Pat Erickson from Aging Solutions, a nonprofit agency that cares for people who are declared wards of the state due to lack of money and relatives, had been visiting Dailey frequently and eventually decided to mail out letters, with one reaching a Charlie Mae Chaney in Detroit, the newspaper reported.

Chaney had been looking for her brother for 17 years. Because he had lived the life of drifter, with no job and a pattern of drug and alcohol use, many of Dailey’s relatives assumed he was dead. But Chaney never gave up hope.

As soon as Chaney received the letter about her brother’s whereabouts, she quickly told all their relatives, the Times reported. She then flew to Pensacola from Detroit and drove across Florida, collecting relatives on her way to the rehab center for the long-awaited reunion.

Dailey was surprised when he met with his sister in the hallway of the St. Petersburg center where he has been living. And he was blown away when he encountered the rest of his family in the next room, reported. "I feel wonderful, brother," he said.

The reunion was a tearful, joyous one. The Times noted Dailey told jokes, and his family prepared a Christmas lunch and gave Dailey an early birthday cake and presents. He turns 60 on Wednesday.

"The most important thing in my life right now, I can't hardly hold myself I'm just so happy," Chaney told the TV station.