The bombs that tore through the Brussels airport Tuesday seriously wounded three Mormon missionaries from Utah, leaving one with burns and shrapnel injuries, and sent a French missionary from their group to the hospital, church officials said.
The three Utah men serving in Paris were close to an explosion, but the 20-year-old French woman was in a different area of the airport and received minor injuries. The bomb blasts in the Belgian capital killed 31 people and wounded dozens at the airport and a subway station.
Richard Norby, 66; Joseph Empey, 20; and Mason Wells, 19, were hospitalized with serious injuries, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said a statement. They were at the airport with Fanny Rachel Clain, of Montelimar, France, who was on her way to an assignment in Cleveland.
Empey was doing well after being treated for second-degree burns to his hands, face and head, his parents, Court and Amber Empey said in a statement. He also had surgery for shrapnel injuries to his legs.
“We have been in touch with him and he is grateful and in good spirits,” the statement said.
Chris Lambson, a family friend of Wells’, said the trio was very close to the blast, which tore Wells’ Achilles tendon. He had surgery and was being treated for a gash on his head and second- and third-degree burns to the right side of his body and face.
“He should make a 100 percent recovery,” Lambson said.
Lambson also said Wells has been close to two other major attacks. He went to the Boston Marathon in 2013 to watch his mother compete and was a block away when bombs exploded near the finish line. Wells, who has been on his mission in Paris for 20 months, also was serving in France when a series of coordinated attacks hit the city last November.
He was set to return from the mission in time to start college at the University of Utah next fall, where he plans to major in engineering.
“He’s doing extremely well,” Lambson said. “His biggest concern right now is about housing at U of U.”
The fourth missionary, Clain, had passed through security at the time of the explosion.
The church said she didn’t make her flight out and was hospitalized. It instructed others in the France Paris Mission to stay in their homes.
“This has been a difficult day for our family, and our hearts are broken for those injured or killed by the attacks in Belgium,” the Empey family statement said.
The governor of Utah offered support to the local families. Gov. Gary Herbert praised the Utah natives as “people of faith who have forsaken everything – family, friends, school and careers – in order to share a message of hope and love with the world.”
Thousands of Utah Mormons have served proselytizing missions around the world. Church members account for as many as two-thirds of the state’s population.