Mystery Priest Who Helped at Car Crash Site Identified

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (CNN) - A mysterious priest who appeared at a car accident in Missouri, prayed and anointed the victim, before seeming to vanish into thin air, has come forward.

Rescuers wondered if they had seen an angel.  It turns out he was Father Patrick Dowling, who says he was returing to mid-Missouri following a mass in Ewing, Missouri because the regular priest was sick on the morning of Sunday, August 4.

That's when he approached the accident scene on Missouri 19.  He said he was already inside the blockade before authorities started blocking traffic.

He waited until it was possible to drive up closer to the scene.

Fr. Dowling ended up parking behind a large vehicle about 150 yards from the scene, walked up to a member of the Ralls County Sheriff's Department and asked if he could approach the scene.

Fr. Dowling says he never plans to drive away from an emergency, road block or no road block.

"If I were in an accident, and I heard that a priest drove by, I would get him for that! That he would pass by the scene of an accident and leave me at death's door without stopping to help," said Fr. Dowling.  "You do it, you do it, you offer your services as a priest because you have the power to forgive sins and you have the power to anoint the sick. If you have faith, you stop."

Rescue crews took about 80 photos of the crash scene as crews were trying to rescue 19-year-old Katie Lentz.

Fr. Dowling, also known as the mysterious priest, appeared in none of them.

Fr. Dowling does not want credit for the rescue.  He said a higher power deserves that credit along with the hard work and diligence of the rescue workers on the scene that morning.

"It is almighty God who intervened because there was something exceptional there in the manner of her rescue," said Fr. Dowling.

He described rescue crews as working harmoniously together like a Swiss watch.

"The sergeant was quiet, but totally in control. For people who were in that part of the scene were moved, and everybody worked, did his or her job according to their own expertise, and it was just well organized," he said.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said 26-year-old Aaron Smith crossed the center line and struck Katie Lentz head-on.

It took rescue workers more than an hour to free Lentz from the car.  She remains in the hospital.

Charges against Smith are pending.