AGAR: Misidentification adds pain to tragic Humboldt crash

The misidentification of two people in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash was tragic and, according to Drew Wilby, an official from the Ministry of Justice, “unprecedented in Saskatchewan’s history.”

Unfortunately such a mix-up is not entirely unprecedented in North America.

The Toronto Sun reported Monday: “The ministry says the body of Parker Tobin was mistaken for that of Xavier Labelle — Labelle is injured but alive, and Tobin is among the 15 people who died when the bus carrying the junior hockey team collided with a semi truck in northeastern Saskatchewan.”

The roller coaster of emotions the families of Tobin and Labelle must have experienced piles misfortune upon tragedy in this terrible case.

Something similar happened on April 26, 2006, when a van carrying nine students and staff from Taylor University, a small Indiana Christian College, collided with a tractor-trailer being driven by Robert F. Spencer, who had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Whitney Cerak was among the five dead identified by the coroner. She was given a funeral, attended by 1,400 people, and buried in a marked grave.

Meanwhile the family of Laura van Ryn sat watch over the bandaged and comatose body of the young woman they believed to be their daughter.

Five weeks into her hospitalization, Lisa Van Ryn wrote in a blog post, “While certain things seem to be coming back to her, she still has times when she’ll say things that don’t make any sense.”

Wikipedia writes, ”the patient accused ‘her’ parents of being ‘false parents;’ and the patient told ‘her’ sister their parent’s names were Newell and Colleen.”

The woman believed to be Laura wrote on a card that her name was Whitney. The lives of two families changed again.

The New York Times quoted Richard J. McNally, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University: “The family members, they’re being told by the authorities that it is in fact their daughter. The person in the hospital is rather badly banged up and bruised, and they might conceivably accept that verdict from the authorities.”

“Complicating matters, the young women looked remarkably alike. They were both blond and had roughly the same height and build and similar facial features, Laura van Ryn’s sister Lisa said.”

The Associated Press reported: “At a news conference, the coroner for Grant County, Ind., Ron Mowery, said the mistakes started at the crash scene. Emergency personnel faced a chaotic scene with bodies, purses and wallets scattered across the road.”

One report said it was amid the chaos that emergency workers erroneously clipped Van Ryn’s student ID to Wheeler’s body.

The Detroit Free Press quotes Whitney Cerak, now Whitney Wheeler, married with three children saying: “The Van Ryns, they loved me like I was their daughter because they believed that I was their daughter. And even after I wrote ‘Whitney’ and their world changed and they knew that I wasn’t their daughter, they still treated me like I was their family.”

WXIN reported Carly Cerak, Whitney’s sister wrote: “Soon after we saw Whitney, our family met with the Van Ryns and our joy for ourselves was pushed aside by the pain we felt for them. It is hard because our joy is their pain.”

The book describing the story is “Mistaken Identity, Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope.”

Whitney says: “A lot of people wonder what will people say about you at your funeral. I know.”

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies