Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope

Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope is a best-selling non-fiction book describing a case where the identities of two young women were confused after a car crash. It was published by Howard Books on March 25 2008. The book lists its authors as Don and Susie Van Ryn; Newell, Colleen and Whitney Cerak; and Mark Tabb. Don and Susie Van Ryn are the parents of Laura Van Ryn, the girl initially believed to be alive who was actually dead. Newell and Colleen are the parents of Whitney Cerak, the survivor of the crash. Mark Tabb is a former pastor who the New York Times described as "the go-to guy when a collaborator is needed on books with spiritual themes.

On April 26 2006, a Taylor University van carrying 9 students and staff members collided with a tractor-trailer being driven by Robert F. Spencer on Interstate 69 in Indiana. 5 people in the van died in the crash. Elizabeth Smith, Laurel Erb, Bradley Larson, and Monica Felver, were killed in the crash, as was a young blonde woman the coroner identified as Whitney Cerak. A similar looking woman who was in a coma was identified as Laura Van Ryn. The Van Ryn family cared for the woman they believed to be their daughter by keeping a bedside vigil for several weeks. However, five weeks after the crash it was discovered that the surviving woman was not Laura Van Ryn, but instead Whitney Cerak.

The discovery of the mixup after the crash received international attention. The book's release also received great media attention. The book was the subject of a one hour special on Dateline NBC, another hour on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was also featured on the Today Show. The book was #1 for two weeks on the adult non-fiction New York Times Best Seller list in 2008.

See also

Alone (House) -- an episode from the television show House that features a similar theme.


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