An 11-year-old Ashville boy died Saturday at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh after an accident Feb. 18 in the snow near his home.
Matthew J. Kubat Jr. was a sixthgrader at St. Michael's School in Loretto.
"A very, very polite boy," said school Principal Judy Noel Monday. "One of the kids who always spoke," she said - adding that some kids "walk by and pretend they don't know you."
He was also easy-going.
He sometimes came into physical education class with his gym shorts backwards, and when the teacher would point it out, "he was like, 'Oh, OK,'" Noel said.
"It didn't really bother him," she said.
He'd just go back into the locker room and set it right.
The school held a prayer service Monday.
Monsignor Timothy Swope, the parish pastor, gave a homily in which he pointed out "it's what's going to happen to all of us," Noel said.
Noel said she had trouble concentrating, however.
"I was sitting there thinking about Matthew," she said.
Matthew had played pee wee baseball in Loretto, was taking guitar lessons before regular classes started at school and was an altar server at St. Michael's Basilica in Loretto.
He had a positive outlook and studied hard, Noel said.
He talked a lot about his grandfather, his sixth-grade teacher Kristy Farabaugh said.
"They were building this garage, and he would give me updates," Farabaugh said.
He called his grandfather "Poppy Jim," Noel said.
They were close, Farabaugh said.
The kids in her class told stories about Matthew on Monday, Farabaugh said.
Those included anecdotes "about silly things he did at birthday parties," she said.
The school brought in four IU-08 counselors Monday, who went into classrooms and spoke to kids as a group.
The counselors were available for small-group and individual discussions for those who wanted those, Noel said.
Counseling will be available through the week, she said.
Families of other school students have been calling the school in large numbers, Noel said.
"They want to know what they can do," she said.
Principals from other Catholic schools in the area have also called asking for the Kubat family's address, so they can send sympathy cards, she said.
"That's what Catholic schools are all about," she said.
There were few official details about what happened to Matthew.
Tom Rabickow, forensic supervisor for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office, said the boy died of "positional asphyxiation" and that the death was accidental.
Asked to explain positional asphyxiation, he said it was "the way he was lying."
Positional asphyxia is "a fatal condition arising because of the adoption of particular body positions, causing mechanical interference with pulmonary ventilation," according to an article by M. Belviso and others in the American Journal of Medical Forensic Pathology.
State police said they didn't investigate the accident.
The Ashville Volunteer Fire Company had no comment. The Cambria Alliance Emergency Medical Services couldn't comment because of patient confidentiality regulations.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.