"A Twist of Fate": Taylor University Tragedy

By Web News

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 27, 2008 at 5:41 PM EDT

"A Twist of Fate." It's a local story, making national headlines. Nicole Pence has details.

It's been two years since a tragic accident on I-69 killed four Taylor University students and a school staff member. The heart-wrenching story continued when authorities realized they had mixed up the identities of one of the surviving students and one of the students killed. For the first time, the two families are sharing their story. Thursday morning on the Today show on NBC, Matt Lauer spoke with the parents of Whitney Cerak.

Whitney's parents thought she died in the tragic accident, and held a funeral for her, only to get a call in the middle of the night, five weeks later, that the coroner needed dental records from the parents, because they believed they mistook Laura Van Ryn for Whitney Cerak.

Colleen Cerak/Whitney’s Mother: “The phone rings again and once again it's the coroner and the chaplain and they say, we have reason to believe your daughter is alive? This was two in the morning in a sound sleep and it just didn't seem real that this could be a real phone call. When I saw her, I could tell it was Whitney. I just said it was Whitney!"

In the interview, Whitney's sister, Carly, said she was the first one at the hospital that evening two years ago, and was never asked to identify what was thought to be her sister's body. Whitney's mother and father never saw the body either.

Friday, we will hear from the Van Ryn family and Whitney Cerak herself on the Today Show, right here on Indiana’s NewsCenter, WISE 33.

The two families wrote a book together, titled, “Mistaken identify, two families, one survivor, and unwavering hope". It is in bookstores now.

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