Missionaries Injured in Belgium Explosions Continue to Recover

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 15 April 2016

The four missionaries injured in the March 22 Brussels airport terrorist bombing continue on their varied paths to recovery.

Elder Richard Norby, 66, of Lehi, Utah, remained, at press time, in a Belgium hospital after suffering broken bones, shrapnel wounds, and burns to his face, head, ears, leg, and the backs of his hands.

He was placed in a medically induced coma a few days after the attack. He has since regained consciousness and is able to communicate with his family and doctors. His family released an update on April 8:

Elder Richard Norby (66) of Lehi, Utah, pictured with his wife, Sister Pamela Norby

“Elder Norby remains in a Belgium hospital’s [intensive care unit],” the statement said. “He continues to deal with the serious effects of infection and injury from shrapnel and the progress is slower than we had anticipated.

“We are grateful for the thoughts and prayers that continue to come on his behalf. We are looking forward to having him back in the United States for continued care and recovery as soon as possible.”

At the time of the explosion, Elder Norby was at the airport with fellow missionaries Elder Joseph Empey, 20, Elder Mason Wells, 19, and Sister Fanny Rachel Clain, 20.

After receiving initial care and surgery for burns and shrapnel wounds in Belgium hospitals, Joseph Empey and Mason Wells returned to their home state of Utah for care at the University of Utah Hospital. Both were honorably released from their missionary callings.

The father of one of the injured returned missionaries said in a press conference at the University of Utah Hospital that he has no reservations sending his two younger sons on future missions.

Mason Wells recovers at University Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo © University of Utah Health Care.

Joseph Empey recovers at University Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo © University of Utah Health Care.

“If I had one thing to say to other parents it is ‘Take courage. Don’t be afraid. We’re not worried,’” said Chad Wells, father of Mason Wells, who continues to recover in the hospital.

“Missionaries do so much good. I’m just as comfortable sending my next two boys as I was sending this one because I trust the Lord. Our message today is a message of peace, hope, healing, and faith. There are challenges out there, and we can help.”

Following an eight-day stay at the hospital in Salt Lake City, Joseph Empey returned to his home in Santa Clara, Utah. He was given a hero’s welcome by his hometown friends and relatives.

“I was a little embarrassed about the police escort, but it was fun and I was excited to see everyone and I just felt back at home,” he told a KUTV television reporter.

He said the news coverage of the attack has allowed him to share his beliefs and missionary experiences with others. “Even though these tragedies happen, I know there’s good that comes from every little bit of that.”

He told KUTV that he plans to rest at home with his family and later enroll at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah.

Meanwhile, Sister Clain, of Montelimar, France, who received burns to her hands and face and underwent surgery to remove shrapnel, remained, at press time, in an Antwerp, Belgium, hospital. She was also being treated for infection brought on by the wounds.

Sister Fanny Rachel Clain, right, a French LDS missionary injured in the bombings at the Brussels airport, gets a hug in her hospital room from her former companion in the France Paris Mission, Sister Haylie VanDenBerghe, on Saturday, March 26, 2016.

She told a French television station that she plans to fulfill her missionary calling. “I want to complete my mission as soon as I am healed,” she said. “Since the beginning, I was supposed to serve in Ohio, but I had to wait for my visa. I think I got called to Ohio because I have something to do there. I would like to do that.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who visited with Joseph Empey and Mason Wells at the University of Utah Hospital, referenced the injured missionaries during his recent general conference talk.

“[God] does not prevent all disasters, but he does answer our prayers to turn them aside, as He did with the uniquely powerful cyclone that threatened to prevent the dedication of the temple in Fiji; or He does blunt their effects, as He did with the terrorist bombing that took so many lives in the Brussels airport but only injured our four missionaries” (“Opposition in All Things”).