Parents talk about 'miracle' of daughter they thought had died in Florida shooting

Doctors and first responders who treated a student initially thought to have died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school massacre have spoken of their battle to save the teenager’s life, and her incredible recovery from multiple gunshot wounds.

Madeleine Wilford, 17, and her parents also spoke at a Monday press conference at Broward North hospital to praise the ambulance crew, surgeons and medical staff who resuscitated and operated on her, and talked of the “miracle” that allowed her to be discharged barely a week after she was shot in the rampage that killed 14 classmates and three adult teachers.

“When they were clearing the rooms, at first sight it was believed Maddy had deceased,” said Lieutenant Laz Ojeda of the Coral Springs fire rescue department, a member of one of the first medical teams to enter the school.

“She looked very pale. At that point, Officer Fernandez shook her to elicit a response. She gasped or moved; she made signs of life.”

Ojeda told reporters that a member of Broward sheriff’s Swat team put an emergency chest seal on the student to prevent air escaping from a collapsed lung. He said once she was in the ambulance and able to whisper her age, he made the decision to take her to Broward North’s trauma centre, 20 miles closer than the main Broward Health medical centre in Fort Lauderdale.

“I’m not a doctor, but in my estimation that chest seal prevented the tension pneumothorax from progressing and perhaps killing her sooner.”

Madeleine, a talented basketball player, spent the first days in hospital fighting for her life, receiving numerous units of blood and undergoing three major surgeries to repair “substantial damage” caused by bullets from the AR-15 rifle used by the killer.

“She had major gunshot wounds to her chest, abdomen and arm and was also in haemorrhagic shock,” said Dr Igor Nichiporenko, medical director of trauma services at Broward North.

“She was pale and not responsive. The wounds to her chest were very severe with massive bleeding. We placed a chest tube which relieved the tension pneumothorax, which actually saved her life. She’s lucky. Very, very lucky.”


Nichiporenko said Madeleine was one of three students with gunshot wounds his team had saved. “Because we see these kind of injuries, gunshot wounds and penetrative trauma almost every day, because of experience, we did an outstanding job,” he said. “I’m pleased Maddy and her parents are here to celebrate her successful recovery.”

Her father David said he felt his daughter was blessed. “It’s hard for me to feel anything but gratitude and thanks. This really has been a miracle,” he said.

Madeleine thanked the “first responders and amazing doctors” who saved her. “All the love that’s been passed around, I wouldn’t be here without it,” she said. “I’m just grateful I’m making a full recovery and things have been going smoothly.”

Meanwhile, pressure was continuing to grow on Monday on Scott Israel, the sheriff of Broward County, who has been criticised for alleged failures in preventing and responding to the shooting. An armed officer assigned to the school resigned after waiting outside while the victims were being shot.

More than 70 Republican lawmakers wrote to the state’s governor, Rick Scott, on Sunday to demand that Israel be suspended for “dereliction of duty and incompetence” amid revelations that the Broward sheriff’s office had received 23 calls about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old alleged killer, including some that suggested he was a potential school shooter.

In an interview with CNN, Israel dismissed the criticism, claiming it was “politically motivated” and insisting he had shown “amazing leadership”.

On Monday, investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) began an independent inquiry ordered by Scott into the shooting, including the actions of the Broward officers. Israel said in a statement he welcomed “full transparency and accountability” and that his office would cooperate fully with the investigation.

The investigators will want to talk with Scot Peterson, the school’s assigned resource officer for almost a decade who has resigned from the sheriff’s office. Branded “a coward” by Donald Trump, Peterson was accused of hiding outside the freshman building.

In a written statement released through his lawyer on Monday, Peterson denied the allegation, saying he had not entered the building because he thought the gunfire was coming from outside. “Let there be no mistake. Mr Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” the attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, wrote.

“However, the allegations that Mr Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers, are patently untrue.”

Students of Stoneman Douglas are preparing to return to classes on Wednesday for the first time since the 14 February shooting. The building where most of the victims died will remain closed, pending demolition.

In Tallahassee on Monday, about 100 parents of Parkland students lobbied lawmakers to approve gun reforms. Last week, Scott announced plans to raise the age for buying firearms to 21 and provide $500m for mental health and school security.

Florida House speaker Richard Corcoran, a Republican and member of the National Rifle Association, said the measures could be approved shortly.

“I don’t care what any special interest group thinks, what I care about is keeping our citizenry safe, what I care about is protecting every single school child so that what occurred never happens again,” he said.

“I don’t care who comes against us, the package we have does that. I applaud the governor, we’ll get it done.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting