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BRUSSELS — One of the four LDS missionaries injured in Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels has been placed in a medically-induced coma, according to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officials.
The explosions in the Brussels airport and in a rush-hour subway train near the European Union headquarters killed 34 people, including three suicide bombers, and injured 270 others, according to the Associated Press. The Islamic State group, which was behind the November Paris attacks, has claimed responsibility for the Brussels bombings.
Four missionaries for the LDS Church were injured in the blasts at the airport. Three Utah missionaries who were serving in the France, Paris mission had been accompanying a fourth French missionary who was traveling to her mission assignment in the Ohio Cleveland Mission, LDS Church officials said. The four injured missionaries were identified as Richard Norby, 66, of Lehi; Joseph D. Empey, 20, of Santa Clara; Mason Wells, 19, of Sandy and Fanny Rachel Clain, 20, of Montélimar, France.
The Paris, France mission president, Frederic J. Babin, reported that the three male missionaries were in proximity of the explosion when it occurred and that all three were hospitalized in serious condition.
Elder Norby sustained several wounds from the shrapnel and second-degree burns to his head and neck area, church officials said. He received severe trauma from the shrapnel to his lower leg, and after a lengthy surgery, was placed in a medically-induced coma. Church officials said Elder Norby would remain in the coma for the next few days and a lengthy recovery is expected.
Elder Norby’s wife, Pamela Norby, was not at the airport at the time of the attack and is supporting him during his recovery. The family released a statement in regards to the incident:
“As his family, we wish to express our deep appreciation to his caring and competent medical staff and to all those who have expressed well-wishes and prayers on his behalf,” the Norby family said. “We wish to express our love to the Paris, France mission president, President Babin, his wife, and the fine missionaries. Our prayers go out to all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy and wish for the speedy recovery of all the wounded bystanders.”
Elder Empey and Elder Wells both underwent surgery for shrapnel injuries to their legs and are recovering. Sister Clain had already passed through airport security at the time of the explosion and was hospitalized with minor injuries. She had been serving in the France, Paris mission while waiting for a permanent visa for the United States, officials said.
Elder Norby was the president of the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission from 2003-05. He also previously served as president of the Orem Utah College 1st Stake. Elder Norby worked in the LDS Church Educational System and retired as the assistant to the area director of the Utah Valley South area. His wife, Pamela J. Norby, is a former member of the Relief Society General Board.
President Babin had assigned Elder Norby to implement the LDS Church's new "My Plan" program in the Paris Mission. The program is designed to strengthen returning full-time missionaries and provide them with a post-mission plan.
The Norbys were also featured by The LDS Church News in an article about attending general conference in 2009.
Elder Wells and Elder Empey became companions on Feb. 17, when Elder Wells was assigned to Brussels.
Elder Wells graduated in 2014 from Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah, where he was a member of the student council and played football and lacrosse and ran track. His family moved to Sandy two years ago.
Elder Empey graduated from Snow Canyon High School in St. George, Utah, in 2014. He played rugby. He was part of a group of 50 men from his high school class to leave on LDS missions at age 18 soon after graduation, said Kaleen Lambson-Talley, a secretary at the school.
Scott Bond, the LDS Bishop from Elder Wells' home ward in Sandy said Wells and his dad were a block away from the finish line of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 when the second bomb went off. His mother had taken part in the marathon and was not injured. Elder Wells had also been just hours away from the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015.
Contributing: Tad Walch, Sam Penrod