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While Laura's family raced to the hospital to be by their daughter's side, across town the county coroner began his grim task. "Once we were notified we could start removing the victims, we went to the hospital where we assisted the families and friends and hospital staff in identifying the bodies," Coroner Mowery says. "The Taylor staff had been provided picture IDs and personal effects. They took that information, their personal experience and knowledge, and worked with our staff in identifying these people."

At that point, Laura Van Ryn's body was identified as Whitney Cerak. Whitney's family was not asked to look at the body to identify it. Whitney's sister, Carly, says she did not ask to see the body. "I wouldn't want to see my sister crushed from an accident," she says. Looking back at the moment when Whitney and Laura's identities were officially switched, Coroner Mowery has regrets. "If only we had encouraged Carly to see Whitney, then maybe she would have been able to say, 'No, no, no.'"
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FROM: The Families Behind the Heartbreaking Mistaken Identity Case
Published on January 01, 2006

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