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Misidentified woman in crash begins walking

Taylor University student Whitney Cerak, who was believed to have died in a carsh but later found alive after being misidentified as one of the other women in the car, is making progress recovering from her injuries.
Combination school photos showing Whitney Cerak and Laura VanRyn
Whitney Cerak, who was thought to be killed in a late May 2006 car crash but later found to be alive, has been cleared to walk without a special boot used to help her rehabilitation, according to her family’s online journal.Taylor University Via Reuters Fi / X80001
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman misidentified for weeks as a college classmate who was killed in a traffic accident has been cleared to walk without a special boot used to help her rehabilitation, according to her family’s online journal.

Whitney Cerak, 19, of Gaylord, was among nine people from Indiana’s Taylor University riding in a school van that collided with a truck on April 26. She was severely injured.

“We were in tears when she stood up on both legs, took three steps forward and looked at us with a huge smile and said ’Lets take the stairs,”’ her father, Newell Cerak, wrote Friday in the blog, which details her medical progress.

Cerak had been using a walking boot to help her bear her full weight.

Five people in the van died, including Laura VanRyn, a 22-year-old Taylor senior from Caledonia Township. VanRyn’s mother and father were mistakenly told that their daughter was alive while Cerak’s parents were told that Whitney, whose injuries initially left her in a near-coma, was dead.

VanRyn’s family and boyfriend kept vigil at Cerak’s bedside for five weeks before realizing the error.

Donations collected at Cerak’s funeral were sent to a charity benefiting children in Uganda, her sister wrote in the blog Sunday.

Officials with Invisible Children notified the Cerak family Sunday that the money was being transferred to the eastern African nation, Carly Cerak wrote.

“It has been a great passion of Sandra (another sister), Whitney, and I to help these children. And it has been so humbling to look at what we’ve gone through and then look at these kids and realize we have gone through nothing,” Carly Cerak wrote.