Surviving Teen Of Crash, ID Mix-Up: 'Strange Family And Friends Had Funeral For Me' - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/14/06

Surviving Teen Of Crash, ID Mix-Up: 'Strange Family And Friends Had Funeral For Me'

It was "strange to find out my family and friends had a funeral for me," says Whitney Cerak, the young woman who was wrongly identified as a dead college classmate after a van crash.

Writing on her family's online journal for the first time, Cerak described her experiences after reawakening from a near-comatose state following the crash and then learning about the mix-up.

"It is so hard to believe that this story is all over the news and so many people know about me," Cerak wrote. "Even though I don't know many of you who are reading what I am writing about my life, I am so thankful to have had your prayers."

Cerak, 19, of Gaylord, was with eight students and staff from Indiana's Taylor University when their school van collided with a tractor-trailer on April 26. Five people died in the crash, including Laura VanRyn, a 22-year-old Taylor senior.

VanRyn's mother and father mistakenly were told she was alive, while Cerak's parents were told their daughter was dead. VanRyn's family and boyfriend kept vigil at the badly injured Cerak's bedside for five weeks before realizing the error.

Cerak wrote in the journal posting Saturday that she remembers her life before the crash but doesn't recall anything during the five weeks that followed it.

"Some people came to visit me at the hospital, and a few of those were the VanRyns," Cerak wrote. "I know they were with me constantly during the first five weeks, but their visit was all I can remember.

"They are very nice people, and it was funny to hear how I acted when I first came out of my coma. When I found out that five other people were killed in the accident I was really sad."

Cerak, now home after spending months recovering at a center in the Grand Rapids area, said she is excited about resuming her education at Taylor in a few weeks and living a normal life again.

"I AM FINALLY HOME," she wrote at the end of the posting, signed, "Whitney."

Associated Press

  • NewsMore>>

  • Firefighters help angel tree kids

    Firefighters help angel tree kids

    Saturday, December 16 2017 11:51 PM EST2017-12-17 04:51:23 GMT

    East Texas firefighters come to the rescue of angel tree kids. Big Sandy firefighters held two fund-raisers over the past week to help their local Angel Tree network. They collected enough donations to buy toys for 28 kids through the local group 'Agape House Ministries Angel Tree' coordinators. Volunteers also collected cash donations which they turned over to Agape ministries. Copyright 2017 KLTV. All rights reserved.

    More >>

    East Texas firefighters come to the rescue of angel tree kids. Big Sandy firefighters held two fund-raisers over the past week to help their local Angel Tree network. They collected enough donations to buy toys for 28 kids through the local group 'Agape House Ministries Angel Tree' coordinators. Volunteers also collected cash donations which they turned over to Agape ministries. Copyright 2017 KLTV. All rights reserved.

    More >>
  • Big Sandy uses burn house for training

    Big Sandy uses burn house for training

    Saturday, December 16 2017 11:43 PM EST2017-12-17 04:43:35 GMT

    Volunteer firefighters rolled out in one East Texas city today to set a house on fire. It was all part of an unusual set of circumstances that led Big Sandy VFD to seek a unique training opportunity. 

    More >>

    Volunteer firefighters rolled out in one East Texas city today to set a house on fire. It was all part of an unusual set of circumstances that led Big Sandy VFD to seek a unique training opportunity. 

    More >>
  • Pittsburg hold charity chili cook-off

    Pittsburg hold charity chili cook-off

    Saturday, December 16 2017 11:37 PM EST2017-12-17 04:37:15 GMT
    A recent East Texas chili cook-off competition had its origins in the stark reality of the poverty that befalls families with children. A chili cook-off in Pittsburg recently was a competition by teams made up of all first responders. "We ended up with 6 first responder groups from Pittsburg and Camp county," says Pittsburg police chief Richard Penn. But the origins of this competition have a stark beginning. The effort goes back to a welfare check Pittsburg offi...More >>
    A recent East Texas chili cook-off competition had its origins in the stark reality of the poverty that befalls families with children. A chili cook-off in Pittsburg recently was a competition by teams made up of all first responders. "We ended up with 6 first responder groups from Pittsburg and Camp county," says Pittsburg police chief Richard Penn. But the origins of this competition have a stark beginning. The effort goes back to a welfare check Pittsburg offi...More >>
Powered by Frankly