Image: Whitney Cerak
Taylor University via AP file
This undated photo released by Taylor University, shows student Whitney Cerak, 18, of Gaylord, Mich.
updated 8/29/2006 3:27:55 PM ET 2006-08-29T19:27:55

The woman misidentified for weeks as a fellow student who was killed in a traffic accident returned to her university classes Tuesday for the first time since the crash last spring.

Whitney Cerak, 19, who was severely injured in the April 26 crash, was identified as among the five people killed while fellow student Laura VanRyn was incorrectly thought to have survived. It took a month for family and friends who thought they had been caring for the 22-year-old VanRyn to realize the bruised, heavily bandaged patient was Cerak.

On Tuesday, Cerak was back in class at Taylor University.

“She looks amazing. She was laughing and happy,” university spokesman Jim Garringer said.

School officials said Cerak, of Gaylord, Mich., has a light schedule this semester, including a golf class with her sister.

She is sharing a dormitory room but plans to commute to Fort Wayne to continue physical rehabilitation, Garringer said.

Cerak was among 10 people from the university who were riding in a school van that collided with a truck.

Five people in the van were killed, including VanRyn, a senior from Kent County’s Caledonia Township in Michigan.

However, officials told VanRyn’s mother and father that their daughter was alive while informing Cerak’s relatives that the young woman was dead.

Cerak, who bore a resemblance to VanRyn, was in a near-comatose state and suffered brain injuries, a swollen face, broken bones, cuts and bruises.

VanRyn’s parents did not begin to question whether she was actually their daughter until she began talking as she regained consciousness.

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