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Girl, 9, rescued; aunt dies after Graves car crash

BY CARRIE DILLARD cdillard@paducahsun.com

A missing persons case in Graves County turned deadly Tuesday.

Kali Papierski, 20, of Fulton was found dead at the scene of a car crash off Ky. 94 West, east of Kingston Road, after she lost control of her vehicle, crossed a lane of traffic, and went into a field and down into a ditch. A passenger - her 9-year-old niece - was rescued from the vehicle and taken to Lourdes hospital by Mayfield EMS.

The child was later transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.

About 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, the Kentucky State Police were notified Papierski and her niece had not been seen since leaving for school that morning.

According to a report from the Graves County Sheriff Department, Papierski left the Pilot Oak community to take her niece to Carr Elementary School in Fulton at approximately 7 a.m. When the child's father, Shane Papierski, went to pick up his daughter after school, he learned she never arrived. The family then notified state police, who opened an investigation of the whereabouts of the woman and child.

During any missing persons case, state police reaches out to family members, even those not in the immediate area, to see if the missing person has made contact, said Post 1 Public Affairs Officer Jay Thomas. Thomas said police did receive initial reports that Papierski might be in Owensboro, but they turned out to be unfounded. 

Family members assisted in the search and eventually located the vehicle about 11:40 p.m. in a creek bottom off  Ky. 94 West.

Graves County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Edwards was the first officer on the scene and located the two trapped inside the vehicle with water rising due to the heavy rainfall.

Papierski was reported dead at the scene.

Edwards, with the help of Emergency Management Director Jamie Locke, was able to stabilize the passenger until EMS personnel arrived on the scene.

There was no immediate danger that the child would drown inside the car, said Sheriff Dewayne Redmon, though the water would only have risen.

"There was not a lot of water at that time. But if we hadn't found it when we had, the circumstances might have turned out differently for the 9-year-old," he said.

Authorities believe the child was trapped in the vehicle about 161⁠2 hours. According to Redmon, she suffered a concussion and a broken arm and has no memory of the wreck.

After a reconstructionist with the Graves County Sheriff's Department surveyed the scene, Redmon said it appears Papierski may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Passersby would have had a difficult time seeing the vehicle, Redmon continued, and that is likely why the wreck was not reported sooner.

Neither Papierski nor the child was wearing a seatbelt when deputies arrived.  Because so many hours passed  before the vehicle was located, Redmon said they were unable to determine if the two were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash.

No drugs or alcohol are suspected to be involved. Redmon said the department is awaiting a toxicology report.

During the investigation, Graves County Rescue Squad, Cuba Fire Department, Sedalia Fire Department and Water Valley Fire Department assisted in the search.

The Fulton Police Department also assisted in the missing persons investigation.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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