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If this wasn’t about two white girls, would anyone care?

I’m putting the actual article behind the link because it’s way too fucking long, but here’s the gist of it:

Almost two months ago, four Taylor University students and an employee were killed when their van was struck by a tractor-trailer that had drifted across a highway median. This story is about two of the girls in that accident, Whitney Cerak and Laura VanRyn. Whitney died, and Laura is in a coma, suffering from facial swelling, in a neck brace.

Laura’s parents wait by her side for weeks taking care of her in the hospital, and she finally wakes up. She seems confused, and her responses to her parents aren’t quite what they expect.

You know why?

It’s Whitney!

The girls look alike, and the coroner chose to take the word of acquaintances that the dead girl was Whitney Cerak. Did he perform any type of forensic analysis, or even compare dental records? Nope.

So now one set of parents get their dead daughter back, which has to really fuck with you, and the other set gets their hopes crushed horribly.

How’s that for a kick in the nuts?

CALEDONIA, Mich. (AP) — A couple sat by their daughter’s hospital bedside for weeks after an auto accident until she came out of a coma and they realized she was not their daughter after all, but another blond-haired young woman injured in the wreck. Their own daughter, it turned out, was dead and buried.

In a tragic mix-up, one family had been incorrectly told their daughter had died in the April 26 crash in Indiana, and another was erroneously informed their daughter was in a coma.

The two young women – both students at Indiana’s Taylor University – looked remarkably alike, and the one in a coma suffered facial swelling, broken bones and cuts and bruises, and was in a neck brace.

The family of Laura VanRyn, 22, disclosed the mix-up Wednesday on a Web log that they had used to record detailed updates on the young woman’s recovery.

“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 Cerak,” the VanRyns said on the blog.

Cerak’s grandfather, Emil Frank, said news of his granddaughter’s survival was a shock. “I still can’t get over it. It’s like a fairy tale,” he said.

Coroner Ron Mowery, whose office handled the case, apologized for the mistake. He said acquaintances of the students had identified the survivor as VanRyn, but no scientific tests were conducted to verify the IDs.

“This tragedy unfolded like we could never have imagined,” he said.

The VanRyns said that as the young woman began regaining consciousness at a rehabilitation center in Grand Rapids, Mich., she said things that made them question her identity.

As recently as Monday, the VanRyns reported: “While certain things seem to be coming back to her, she still has times where she’ll say things that don’t make much sense.”

The coroner said that VanRyn’s boyfriend raised initial questions about her identity. Then her father became suspicious when she referred to him by a pet name he didn’t recognize.

“He started asking questions and the process evolved to where she actually came to and suggested who she was and wrote her name,” Mowery said.

In a statement, the two families said they took their concerns to hospital officials, and dental records confirmed that the injured woman was Whitney Cerak.

“Both families understand how this could have happened,” said Bruce Rossman, a spokesman for Spectrum Health, which operated the rehab center.

Frank, a retired minister in Portland, Maine, said his granddaughter’s parents declined to look at the body before the funeral. “They wanted to remember her the way she was,” he said.

An official at Taylor University, an evangelical Christian college in Upland, Ind., about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis, said the Grant County coroner had notified the school of the error.

“We rejoice with the Ceraks. We grieve with the VanRyns,” said Taylor spokesman Jim Garringer.

The VanRyns, who are from Caledonia, Mich., said their daughter and Cerak, 18, of Gaylord, Mich., bore an “uncanny resemblance.”

The coroner described an accident scene strewn with purses and wallets.

“I can’t stress enough that we did everything we knew to do under those circumstances, and trusted the same processes and the same policies that we always do,” Mowery said.

Four Taylor students and an employee were killed when their van was struck by a tractor-trailer that had drifted across a highway median. Those in the van worked for Taylor’s dining services and were preparing for a banquet for the inauguration of a new president of the 1,850-student school.

Most of the crash victims had funerals with closed caskets. A month ago, an overflow crowd of more than 1,400 people turned out for what they thought was Cerak’s funeral in Gaylord, Mich.

Joe Sereno, associate pastor at Gaylord Evangelical Free Church, said the casket was closed both for visitation and for the funeral.

“We did everything you usually do,” Sereno said. “We had a memorial service at the church. The family did a private burial the next day. Everybody thought it was Whitney.”

The VanRyn family used the blog to provide progress reports on the young woman, reporting, example, that her hair was in pigtails or braids, that she managed to feed herself some applesauce, that she played a game of “Connect Four” with one of the therapists and did quite well, and that she performed an exercise in which her therapist gave her a word and she had to supply the word’s opposite.

Calls to the VanRyns and Ceraks were not immediately returned, and a young man outside the VanRyns’ home declined to comment to a reporter. An attorney for ‘the Cerak family did not return a call either.

Prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against the truck driver, saying he may having fallen asleep at the wheel.

A memorial service for VanRyn is scheduled Sunday in Grand Rapids.

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11 Replies to “If this wasn’t about two white girls, would anyone care?”

  1. Kim

    I live in the area that the accident happened in. This is huge news around here. What gets me thinking is: who’s going to pay for Whitney’s hospital costs, and who’s going to pay for Laura’s funeral costs? Do the parents just call it even?
    And imagine Whitney’s horror as she woke up from the coma. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode! Everyone around you unrecognizable and calling you by a different name. Crazy stuff, I feel sorry for everyone involved.

  2. Diva

    Okay, first off, the accident happened 5 weeks ago, and if you were reading all about the story, you would have known that. Secondly, to post such a headline as “If this wasn’t about two white girls, would anyone care?” is absolutely heinous. Think of the anguish these two families are going through. Now, put yourself in their shoes. Not so funny, huh? This is America and you have the right to say whatever you please, but think about the feelings of others before you post such a headline…

  3. Avitable

    Stiltwalker: They even look alike to other white people I guess!

    Kim: It is pretty fucked up. Coming out of a coma can’t be easy, but being called the wrong name and having people you don’t recognize talk to you has to fuck with you mentally.

    Diva: Thanks for posting. Suck my cock.

  4. kmedaris

    You must be an angry man. Don’t you just hate racism….in any form! Keep the hate alive man! That is what we need, more hate from people like you to fuel the racism! Good job. Go ahead and blast me like you did Diva. I expect it and it kinda shows your level of education. Diva great post. I can’t wait for a nice nasty comment from you avitable.

    I didn’t mispell, I meant not to cap your name, no respect from me.

  5. Avitable

    82eagle: You misspelled “mispell”. Kinda shows off your ignorance and lack of education, eh?

    There’s a joke on the Internet about missing girls and the case that it never becomes breaking news unless the girl is a cute white girl. If she’s fat, ugly, or black, or a combination of all three, the news tends to mention it on page 43, underneath the underwear ad.

    So, fucktard, my post title was referencing the tendency of the media to ignore big news that is not about white girls.

    Oh, and suck my cock, too.

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