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A sign outside a West Seneca restaurant damaged in an accident earlier this week has angered the family and friends of the elderly woman who was driving the vehicle that hit it.

“Closed due to careless driving,” in type large enough to be easily read by passing motorists, is on a portable sign outside Schwabl’s Restaurant on Center Road. “We’ll be back as soon as possible” appears in smaller type below.

The building, at 789 Center Road, was damaged when a sport utility vehicle driven by Carol L. Krupinski, 80, of West Seneca, crashed through the west wall at the start of Monday’s lunch hour.

Nobody inside the restaurant was injured, but Krupinski remains hospitalized in Erie County Medical Center, where she’s being treated for a broken rib, punctured lung and broken ankle, according to a relative.

The sign has outraged those who know Krupinski.

“I spoke with her last night. She was just devastated about even hitting the building,” said Cathy Zimmerman, a friend who learned about the sign Thursday morning from her husband, Bob

“Carol Lee is the kind of person, when someone’s sick, she will drive them to the doctor, get them soup,” Zimmerman said.

But the restaurateur defends the sign. “I think I have a damn right to be insensitive,” Gene Staychock said. “I didn’t ask for this.”

The restaurant took a big hit during the busiest time of the year, and it will remain closed into January, Staychock said. Damage topped $200,000, and 27 people were left without jobs.

Krupinski reportedly was charged with imprudent speed, making an unsafe turn and failure to stay in lane.

Adrienne Williams, who lives in the same apartment complex as Krupinski, also was upset about the sign.

“I think it’s terrible what the guy did with the sign,” she said.

Derek Vogenauer, Krupinski’s nephew, said: “I’m outraged about it. It’s an accident. Everything can be repaired. For a businessman, this is very unbusinesslike.”

Vogenauer said his aunt told him the crash occurred when she veered to the right to avoid hitting a car.

Staychock responded that he has good reason to be upset but also added: “I understand that this was an accident. I understand it’s probably not her fault.”

John Gullo, the town’s code enforcement officer, described the resulting damage as “devastating.”

“When she hit it, it moved the building,” Gullo said. “She pushed the building side to side. In doing such, it pushed the studs on that one wall upward, which moved the rafters.”

The accident was the fifth time the building has been hit; it was the third time since Schwabl’s – which is famous for its roast beef on weck – has been owned by the Staychocks.

As repairs are made this time, bollards – vertical protective posts – must be installed on the west side of the property, Gullo said.

Staychock questioned whether Krupinski should have been driving at all, given the frequency of accidents involving elderly drivers. He cited the September 2011 deaths of a couple dining with their young son at an Amherst restaurant, where a 74-year-old woman drove a van through a wall.

“If it really bothers everybody that much, I will take the sign down,” Staychock said. “But I have to notify people that we are out of business.”

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com