MURRYSVILLE, Pa. -- At least two teenagers wounded in a Pennsylvania high school stabbing rampage remained on ventilators and face additional surgery, doctors said Thursday, while another victim thanked a friend for saving his life and expressed hope that some day he could forgive his attacker.
Brett Hurt, a Franklin Regional Senior High School student who was among the most severely injured, spoke at a news conference at Forbes Regional Hospital. Seated in a wheelchair with his mother at his side, Hurt credited his friend, Gracey Evans, with coming to his aid by applying direct pressure on his wound after an attacker plunged a knife into him.
“Gracey saved my life,” he said.
Hurt and Evans were in the crowded school corridor shortly after 7 a.m., waiting for classes to begin, when police say 16-year-old student Alex Hribal began slashing and stabbing at people with two 8-inch stainless steel knives.
Hribal, who has been charged as an adult with attempted homicide and aggravated assault, was due to be arraigned April 30. His attorney, Patrick Thomassey, said he would try to have his client’s case moved from adult to juvenile court.
Thomassey described Hribal as “dazed,” “frightened” and “depressed.” He said the teenager had never been in trouble.
Hurt said the attack came so quickly that he did not know what happened. He was turned away from the attacker when the blade sliced into his back. Evans screamed, then sprang into action, leading Hurt into a classroom and applying pressure to the deep wound.
“I could barely move,” Hurt said.
Asked what was going through his mind, Hurt replied: “Will I survive or will I die?”
Dr. Chris Kaufmann, a trauma surgeon at Forbes, said that of the three students who underwent surgery at Forbes after the attack, one was “doing fine and conversant.”
But two were on ventilators and will need at least one more operation each to repair wounds to internal organs. “These were not trivial, superficial stab wounds,” he said of the injuries suffered by them, and by all seven of the stabbing victims who were sent to Forbes.
Had some of the patients been transported downtown to Pittsburgh, some 30 minutes away, rather than to Forbes hospital, a few miles from Murrysville, they would not have survived, said Kaufmann.
Two of the Forbes patients were expected to be released Thursday. Several students remained hospitalized at other area medical centers, including one in critical condition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Presbyterian Hospital. That student underwent surgery overnight and is expected to face another operation Friday, a hospital spokesman said.
Evans has already visited Hurt twice at the hospital, said Hurt’s mother, Amanda Leonard, who learned of the stabbing from her daughter, a freshman at the high school who was in the library during the attack and not injured. Leonard said Evans, a longtime friend of her son, had saved his life.
Both Leonard and her son say they hoped that the suspect would be able to get the help he needed, and neither expressed bitterness toward him.
Leonard, fighting back tears at times, said the rampage showed the need for society to pay attention to students who might lack the social skills of their more popular peers.
Some students have described Hribal as quiet, with few friends. It is unclear whether he was bullied.
“In this age we live in, in all honesty, I think there’s almost more bullying than what anybody wants to say. I honestly feel that some students, they have a tendency of some shyness more than other students do,” she said. “We need to look and say, ‘How are our children coping with social skills these days? How are they with other children? How are they being tested in the world?’”
Hurt, whose hobbies include weightlifting, said he did not know Hribal well and had no idea what could have sparked the rampage.
“I just hope one day … I can forgive him and everyone else who got hurt can forgive him,” said Hurt, who hoped to be released from the hospital Thursday.
He also hopes to make a full recovery, or at least enough of a recovery to dance with his girlfriend at her prom next month.
But he isn’t sure he can go back to school anytime soon.
“I think if I walked in there, I might just freeze,” he said. “I think all of us who got injured … need time to cope. We’re all lucky to still be alive.”
Semuels and Simon reported from Murrysville and Susman from New York.