Two Erie County hit and run cases remain under investigation

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Papaj is seen here with newborn grandson Mikey, who was born just five days before the accident.

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB)- Surveillance footage helped link a black Dodge Ram pick-up to a hit and run crash on Grand Island June 13.

53-year-old Dana Papaj remains in critical condition.

According to State Police, Papaj was out walking her dog when she was struck on East River Road between Whitehaven and Riverwood Drive.

“The doctors have confirmed that she has suffered brain injuries. They don’t know the extent of those brain injuries and until she wakes up from the coma, they won’t know a ton of information,” explained Catherine Aughey, one of Papaj’s attorneys from the HoganWillig law firm.

The truck is registered to a corrections officer. According to his attorney, Barry Covert, the registered owner turned the vehicle over to state police.

It’s unclear who was driving at the time, and no charges have been filed.

53-year-old Dana Papaj remains in critical condition at ECMC after being struck by a pick-up truck on Grand Island June 13.

Papaj’s attorneys are hoping technology from inside the truck will give them some answers on what happened that night.

“We are going to see if the Event Data Recorder reflects application of the breaks, a hard application of the breaks, or non application of the breaks,” said Steve Cohen, another one of Papaj’s attorneys.

The Grand Island woman’s legal team told News 4 their planning on taking civil action against the the driver once they have been identified.

Former Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty explained prosecuting hit and runs is often an uphill battle.

Technology from within vehicles, he said, has different memory capacity.

“It’s important to get that information as soon as you can because the memory of them all is not the same,” Flaherty told News 4.

Papaj is a mother and a grandmother. She also works as a teacher’s aide at Huth Road Elementary School.

Flaherty said the types of charges a driver could face in a hit and run investigation depend on if prosecutors can prove they were impaired, and also how severely an individual was injured,

28-year-old Ryan Johns of Depew was killed in Lancaster early Thursday morning during a separate hit and run.

Lancaster Police said Johns was walking on Broadway near Pavement Road when he was struck by behind. The driver took off.

Police do not have any suspects, but are reviewing surveillance footage from the area.

“The police investigators, they’re going to assume there’s a reason you fled,” Flaherty told News 4.

He also explained that given the number of elements prosecutors must prove in a hit and run case, they often take a while to prosecute.

Aughey, who knows the Papaj family personally, told News 4 they’re trying to remaining positive.

“They know the reality of the situation but they’re praying for their mom and they encourage prayers from everybody,” she said.

News 4 will continue to follow both these developing stories.

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