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03/13/09 06:48 AM


Hit-and-run vehicle may have been a Jeep, police say

By Maki Becker

The SUV that struck two students near Daemen College in a hit-and-run incident last weekend — leaving both young women still hospitalized —may have been a Jeep Liberty, Amherst Police Capt. Patrick McKenna revealed.

And as police continued their hunt for the driver, one of the victims, Amy E. Stewart, 22, a University at Buffalo graduate student from Grand Island, remained in a coma Thursday. She was listed in critical but stable condition in Erie County Medical Center’s trauma intensive-care unit.

Her friend, Rachel E. Baird, 21, a Daemen senior from East Syracuse, was in fair condition in ECMC.

The accident occurred about 1:40 a. m. Saturday.

Police said a westbound vehicle on Main Street near Campus Drive hit Stewart and Baird, friends from when Stewart was a student at Daemen, as the young women were crossing from the south side of the street to the north.

The students were believed to be in or near the crosswalk, on the westbound side of Main Street, when they were struck.

Police said the vehicle stopped momentarily after the accident, but then kept heading west.

The new clue about the make and model of the car came from evidence recovered at the scene and “extensive follow-up with local car dealers,” a statement from the police department read. The vehicle is believed to have front-end damage.

Investigators are also reviewing video taken from area surveillance cameras that could help them identify the driver or the vehicle.

The police don’t have any footage of the actual accident, McKenna said, but they are looking at video taken at nearby locations. “We’re trying to enhance the video to see if we can get anything off it.”

Stewart’s father said he was heartened to hear that police have a possible lead in the case.

But he acknowledged that the new information is similar to the incremental progress his daughter has been making.

“They’re all baby steps,” Robert Stewart told The Buffalo News. “It’s one little thing.”

Amy Stewart suffered serious head injuries.

“There’s no change,” Stewart said Thursday afternoon. “She’s still in a coma. It’s going to be a long, long, long haul.”

Stewart’s father said that Baird was able to visit his daughter for the first time since the accident Thursday.

“She had special permission so she could see Amy,” Robert Stewart said. “They wheeled her down [in a wheelchair]. They got to see each other.”

While the Stewarts are anxious for the driver to be caught, they are focusing all of their attention and energy on their daughter’s recovery.

They continue to be amazed at the outpouring of support from their friends and the community.

Children from Glendale Elementary, where Amy Stewart is a reading aide, have sent dozens of cards to her.

Also, a special Mass will be offered for Stewart at 9:30 a. m. Saturday in St. Stephen Catholic Church, 2100 Baseline Road, Grand Island.

Call Amherst police at 689-1311.