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  1. #1
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    Mistaken Identity - So sad...

    I don't think this has been posted yet. Basically, several students were involved in an accident, and a few died. Two of them are talked about in this article. One of the girls who "died" was actually in the hospital for several weeks. The one who was in the hospital for several weeks....was the one that died....ya follow me still??

    Basically, one family buried their "daughter", only to find out she was still alive in the hospital. And the other family sat by their daughter in the hospital, only to find out that the she was the other families daughter, and they had buried their daughter....anyway, here's the story.

    The Grant County Coroner acknowledged Wednesday night that his office gave significant weight to IDs found strewn at the scene in misidentifying one of the victims of the April 26 car crash that killed four students and a university employee.

    Taylor University students involved in van crash whose identities were mixed up. - Taylor University

    The coroner's office said one of the Taylor University students killed in the crash was Whitney E. Cerak, a Taylor University student from Gaylord, Mich., when in fact it was Laura J. VanRyn, of Caledonia, Mich.
    The mistake was discovered at a Grand Rapids hospital this week and announced by the university on Wednesday.

    "The fact that we had the ID. The fact that we were told that VanRyn was in fact in the hospital and being visited by family, led (the coroner's office) to believe it was making the correct identification," Coroner Ron Mowery said at a news conference in Marion.

    In a circumstance "where there are picture IDs and friends, family or acquaintances who... assist in identifying that body, then that is acceptable."

    Complicating matters was the fact that "we had two girls who looked very similar in appearance," he said.

    Mowery added that in hindsight, there were things that could have been done differently.

    While Mowery was vague on what other steps were taken to identify the two women, it was clear that the identification documents played a significant part in the mistake. He said that emergency responders first at the scene found IDs strewn about the area. One of the responders apparently attached VanRyn's identification to Cerak as she was airlifted to a Fort Wayne hospital.

    Mowery said VanRyn's parents also mistakenly identified the girl who arrived in Fort Wayne as their daughter.

    By the time the coroner arrived on the scene, the responders were treating VanRyn's body as Cerak.

    Mowery said the identification was also partly based on Taylor University officials as well as the identification by VanRyn's parents in Fort Wayne.

    He said no one from the Cerak family would agree to confirm the body back in Marion was their daughter.

    Mowery, a popular vote-getter, served two terms as Grant County sheriff and two terms as Marion mayor before becoming coroner.

    "I've never experienced anything like this. It's a tragedy upon tragedy," Mowery said.

    "We did follow protocol," he added.

    "Once we realized we had a lady up in Fort Wayne that could survive, there was no reason to believe otherwise."

    While Mowery said it is a common practice to use a photo ID to identify a body, "we should have made a trip to Fort Wayne. We should have met with the families."

    Don and Susie VanRyn began to have their doubts on Monday. It was a combination of the young woman's appearance and some things she said.

    Her facial injuries were partially healed. More than once, when they said, "Laura," the woman would reply, "Whitney."

    By Wednesday morning, confirmation arrived through dental records.

    The VanRyns had cared for the woman they thought was their daughter for five weeks as she recovered from a serious head injury. They were constantly at her bedside after she was moved from Fort Wayne to Grand Rapids.

    On Tuesday, they brought their doubts to the staff caring for her at Spectrum Health, a rehabilitation center in Grand Rapids. Dental records were checked, revealing that she was not Laura VanRyn but, rather, Cerak.

    Cerak, 18, of Gaylord, Mich., is a freshman at the university, while VanRyn, 22, of Caledonia, Mich., was a senior.

    Officials confirmed their findings to Cerak's mother, Colleen, and the VanRyns in a conference room at the rehab center Wednesday morning. Cerak's father, Newell, out of town on a youth ministry trip, was headed to Grand Rapids.

    "There was elation and grief, for themselves and the other family," said Spectrum spokesman Bruce Rossman.

    Neither family was available for comment.

    In a joint statement, they noted their daughters bore a striking resemblance -- same height, same body type, nearly the same hair color, blonde.

    Cerak suffered a traumatic brain injury. She was not comatose, Rossman said, but showed "varying degrees of alertness -- she can talk sporadically. Rossman said when Cerak's mother entered her room Wednesday, she recognized her.

    Rossman said Cerak had made "steady progress since she arrived" at the rehab center but it was "too early to say" if she'd make a full recovery. "It's a long, sometimes arduous process," said Rossman.

    Cerak was taken to Spectrum May 18 from Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, where she was taken after the accident.

    VanRyns' family shared the news on a Web site blog where members had been posting updates on the woman's condition.

    "We have some hard news to share with you today," the family said. "Our hearts are aching as we have learned that the young woman we have been taking care of over the past five weeks has not been our dear Laura, but instead a fellow Taylor student of hers, Whitney E. Cerak."

    Over the past couple of days, as Cerak had become more aware of her surroundings, she had been "saying and doing some things that made us question whether or not she was Laura," the family said.

    "We now know without a doubt that this is Whitney," the VanRyns said on their blog.

    At Taylor, an evangelical Christian college in Upland, Ind., about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis, university spokesman Jim Garringer said the news left the campus in a state of "tremendous shock."

    "We are grateful, certainly, for the Cerak family and grieved for the VanRyn family," he said.

    "I think right now we're numb," he added. "In some ways, this brings us back to April 26 all over again."

    In Gaylord, a town about 200 miles north of Grand Rapids, members of the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church also were left in disbelief after hearing that Cerak -- who is well known to the 550-member congregation -- was still alive, Associate Pastor Joe Sereno said.

    "We're pretty numb; just shocked," said Sereno, adding that just a month ago, an overflow crowd of more than 1,400 people turned out for Cerak's funeral.

    "There's joy at the news, but it is tempered by the sadness that this other family's daughter is here now, that they've lost their daughter," Sereno said. "We just feel that burden.

    "We did everything for Whitney -- the service and memorial; she was buried here in town. We're still struggling."

    The family had tried to return to a normal life. Colleen Cerak, a physical education teacher, had returned to teaching; Whitney's older sister, Carlie, who also attended Taylor University, had gone back for final exams.

    Carl Hilling, superintendent of Gaylord Community Schools, said he was "shocked and a little bewildered" by the news.

    "How can they make a mistake like this?" he asked.

    "To go through all that and find out she's alive -- it's amazing," Hilling said. "There's elation at being happy for the Cerak family -- they're a great family -- and sadness for the other family."

    The collision happened about two miles north of the Marion exit in Grant County as the victims were returning from the school's Fort Wayne campus, where they were helping to prepare for a banquet that was part of the inauguration ceremony for the school's new president.

    According to a preliminary investigation of the crash, a northbound 1996 Freightliner semi-tractor trailer owned by Mike Brooks Inc., Knoxville, Iowa, and loaded with baking flour, crossed through the median and collided with the van.

    The truck peeled off the entire driver's side of the southbound van, causing several of the van's occupants to be ejected.

    Along with VanRyn, those killed were students Elizabeth A. Smith, 22, Mount Zion, Ill., Bradley J. Larson, 22, Elm Grove, Wis., Laurel E. Erb, 20, St. Charles, Ill., and university employee Monica Felver, 53, Hartford City, Ind.

    Grant County Prosecutor James Luttrull Jr. is reviewing the findings of the crash to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

    According to statements from witnesses, trucker Robert F. Spencer, 37, of Canton Township, Mich., fell asleep before his semitrailer drifted across the median between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis and slammed into the university van, investigators have said.

    A memorial service for VanRyn was scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Kentwood Community Church in Grand Rapids.

    The girls look remarkably similar...I guess I can see how it happened. But, it never should have.
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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    The opinions, beliefs, and ideas expressed in this post are mine, and mine alone. They are NOT the opinions, beliefs, ideas, or policies of my Agency, Police Chief, City Council, or any member of my department.

  2. #2
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    We were discussing this the other day in the chat room. One family learns their daughter is really dead now, when they thought she was alive. And vice versa. What a major cluster duck!

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    Re-post, I posted it a few days ago. http://www.lawenforcementforums.com/...ead.php?t=5693 Yours is a better post anyways though.

    I know someone who went to the funeral for Witney, as Gaylord MI, is only a bit north of here, and they had known her through elementary school. We were on the way home the other day and we got a phone call from a friend telling us that she wasn't dead, it was nuts. Like the twilight zone or something.
    Thereís a promise I need you to make
    While Iím gone you take care of the love
    And Iíll deal with the hate.

    Donít worry about me; Iíll be all right
    Just care for your children and sleep tight
    Iíll keep you safe on my watch tonight
    On My Watch Tonight - Mike Corrado



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