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Three wounded Franklin Regional students in critical condition

| Thursday, April 10, 2014, 6:57 a.m.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
Amanda Leonard watches as her son Brett Hurt, a sophomore at Franklin Regional High School, and Forbes Hospital Trauma Medical Director Chris Kaufmann, MD shake hands before a news conference at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville on Thursday, April 10, 2014.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
Brett Hurt, a sophomore at Franklin Regional Senior High School, speaks to the media, flanked by his mother Amanda Leonard (center), and Forbes Hospital Trauma Medical Director Chris Kaufmann, MD, at a news conference at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville on Thursday, April 10, 2014.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Patrick Thomassey, defense attorney for stabbing suspect Alex Hribal, conducts a live interview on Thursday morning, April 10, 2014. Hribal, 16, allegedly stabbed 21 students and a security guard at Franklin Regional Senior High School.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Television news networks take over the parking lot of Franklin Regional Senior High School Thursday morning, April 10, 2014.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Students arrive at Franklin Regional Middle School on Thursday, April 10, 2014.

Jared Boger, one of the most severely wounded students during the Franklin Regional High School stabbing rampage, is conscious and responding to simple commands but remains in critical condition, a UPMC trauma surgeon said Thursday.

“He's responding better than we expected,” said Dr. Juan Carlos Puyana, a trauma surgeon at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland. Puyana did not identify Boger by name but family and friends confirmed his identity. “He's responding to the therapy and were pleased about that.”

Boger, 17, a junior, might have to undergo a third operation on Friday, Puyana said. He sustained a deep wound on his torso that injured his liver and surrounding vessels. He is receiving support from a breathing machine, the surgeon said.

Alex Hribal, 16, randomly slashed at fellow students with two kitchen knives just before the start of classes Wednesday as he walked along a crowded first-floor hallway, according to Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld.

Ten students remain hospitalized at area hospitals, officials said. In addition to Boger, two other students were in critical condition at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville, said spokesman Dan Laurent. Those two patents were intubated and in the intensive care unit, he said.

Brett Hurt, a Franklin Regional sophomore and patient at Forbes Hospital, sat in a wheelchair with his mother, Amanda Leonard, at his side when he spoke to reporters Thursday morning.

Hurt, 16, said he was walking in the hallway when he was stabbed in the back.

“I didn't even know what was going on, will I survive or will I die?” Hurt said.

Hurt said a female friend quickly put pressure on his wound until medics arrived.

“It was all kind of like a blur,” he said.

Hurt and his mother held hands throughout the press conference. At times, he winced in pain as he spoke.

Hurt said there is no timetable for his release, but he hopes to go home “soon.”

“They said it all depends on how I do today,” he said.

But Hurt said he has firm plans for May 9. He “plans on dancing” with his girlfriend at Franklin Regional's prom that day.

Dr. Chris Kaufmann said three patients remain in intensive care unit at the Monroeville hospital; two are on ventilators. Additional surgeries are planned for those two patients this week.

Physicians expect the four other patients there to be released over the next few days.

Meanwhile, school district and law enforcement officials have finished their work at the school and restoration crews will begin preparing the building to reopen Monday.

Students at other Franklin Regional schools in grades K-8 should report to classes as usual, Superintendent Gennaro Piraino said. Counseling will be available for high school students and community members today at Murrysville Alliance Church and for staff at elementary and middle schools, Piraino said.

“Our focus is on our kids, our focus is on our staff and our community,” Piraino said. ”We recognize that our school is so instrumental, it's the center of the community.”

Officials refused to answer questions about a possible motive for Hribal's attack on his classmates. Hribal has been charged as an adult and remains in the Westmoreland County juvenile facility with no bond.

Patrick Thomassey, the sophomore's defense attorney, said he had no indication that bullying was involved. Hribal had no past history of mental health problems and had never been disciplined in school, he said.

“This is not a dysfunctional family. This family sat down and made dinner every night. They‘re devastated. He didn't have a beef with anyone at school that I'm aware of,” said Thomassey, who attended the news conference at the school.

He said he will seek an evaluation from a mental health expert to determine if Hribal is competent to face the charges against him. Thomassey said he would ask to have the charges — attempted homicide, aggravated assault and illegal possession of weapons on school grounds — moved to juvenile court, where Hribal would face a less severe punishment if convicted.

Seefeld said he had heard of rumors attributing Hribal's rampage to bullying.

“We don't know if that plays into this,” he said.

Police continue to interview victims and witnesses, but Hribal has not spoken to police, upon the advice of Thomassey, Seefeld said.

Federal and local law enforcement agents converged on Hribal's Sunflower Court home in Murrysville Wednesday evening and removed computers and several boxes.

Seefeld said he didn't know where Hribal got two, 8-inch, stainless steel knives used in the attacks.

Gracey Evans, 17, a junior, said she was with her friend Brett Hurt when she heard a girl say, “Hey, you're bleeding. A random kid looks down and he's bleeding.”

She saw a boy coming down the hallway stabbing students. Hurt stepped in between her and the boy with the knives, she said.

“In less than 30 seconds, I saw three people stabbed,” she said.

“Hurt laid on his back. There was another kid (Greg Keener) who got stabbed pretty bad. I told him to sit up. I laid him down so his airway would be clear,” she said.

She put pressure on Keener's wound until a medic arrived and took over.

“It wasn't all me,” Evans said, explaining that several students rallied with her to help their wounded classmates.

“Brett started screaming in pain, I went in and held his hand. ... I couldn't have done any of what I did if I didn't have help from the four people in the room with me. Helping me hold pressure on wound, calm down people and get them to stay awake. Everyone got held,” she said.

She said fellow students, senior Kelvin Liu and sophomores Bria McMahon and Kristen Beard took turns applying pressure to the wounds Hurt and Keener sustained in the attack.

She got into the ambulance and rode to the hospital with Hurt.

“I had to go see some social workers who said, ‘You did a really good thing. You might have saved that boy's life.' I don't really process it still. ... There were more people who were heroes ... than me. I did what I could. I know Mr. King and Mrs. Mellon and Officer Buzz. A lot of students.

“We all were just able to do what we had to do to keep people alive,” she said. “Never in all my life did I think I'd see anything like this.”

Renatta Signorini can be reached at 724-837-5374 or Paul Peirce can be reached at 724-850-2860 or Melissa Daniels, Debra Erdley and Daveen Rae Kurutz contributed.

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