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Grand Island hit-and-run victim showing some improvement

Dana Papaj, the Grand Island woman injured by a hit-and-run driver while walking her dog two weeks ago, remains in guarded condition in a coma, unable to speak or focus her eyes.

But she has spontaneously opened her eyes on a few occasions, which has given her family "tremendous hope," according to Steven M. Cohen, the family attorney.

"They are praying around the clock and believe this is in God's hands," Cohen told The Buffalo News. "They believe the prayers and well-wishes of others are going to help her recover and they hope she recovers fully."

Papaj, 53, has been moved out of intensive care and put into a recovery room at Erie County Medical Center, said Cohen and attorney Catherine Aughey, both of the HoganWillig Law Firm. Her condition has stabilized.

Papaj, who recently became a grandmother, is a teacher's aide at Huth Elementary. She was walking her dog, Molly, just after at 8 p.m. June 13 on the west shoulder of East River Road, between Whitehaven Road and Riverwoods Drive, on Grand Island when she was struck by a pickup truck.

There has been no arrest, but police investigators have advised the family they are getting closer to making an arrest, Cohen said.

The pickup truck that State Police investigators believe hit Papaj is registered to a state correction officer, Edward J. Kuebler III of the Town of Tonawanda, Kuebler's attorney has confirmed. State police have not publicly identified who was driving the truck at the time of the accident.

Correction officer owns truck in Grand Island hit-and-run

Surveillance footage of the incident shows a pickup truck brake, but not come to a full stop before leaving the scene, according to a source.

Cohen said Papaj's relatives want to thank State Police Investigator Daniel Alaimo and the Erie County District Attorney's Office for their hard work on the case.

"This is one of the most thorough investigations that I have encountered in my almost three decades of practice and that is deeply appreciated by the family," said Cohen.

Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray said East River Road is very narrow and it needs to have a pedestrian and bike path built on it to improve safety.

McMurray said after the crash, he reached out to the Radisson Hotel, and the hotel agreed to reroute its buses and delivery trucks away from East River Road to Whitehaven Road.

"We will do anything we can possibly do," said McMurray.

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