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Monday, June 5th 2006

Worst Case of Mistaken Identity Ever

A women in a coma is mistaken for a dead girl by doctors and her family.

For more than a month, Laura VanRyn’s friends and relatives thought she had survived a van crash that killed five people, and they celebrated the young woman’s milestones as she recovered.

Then came the stunning news last week of a tragic mix-up: It was not VanRyn, but a college classmate who had survived in a coma-like state. On Sunday, friends and relatives gathered to remember VanRyn, a 22-year-old senior who was just weeks shy of graduation.

Cerak, 19, who bore a strong resemblance to VanRyn, was in a coma after the van she and other students from Taylor University were riding in was hit by a tractor-trailer April 26. Her face was swollen, and she had broken bones, cuts and bruises.

VanRyn’s parents did not begin to question whether she was actually their daughter until, as she regained consciousness, she started saying things that did not make sense to them, including referring to VanRyn’s father by a pet name he did not recognize.