CLOSE CALL

American Mormon Missionaries Nearly Killed in Brussels Terrorist Attack

Three men escaped death with broken bones, shrapnel wounds, and burns after a suicide bomber blew himself up as they were leaving the airport Tuesday morning.

03.22.16 5:14 PM ET

Sister Fanny Rachel Clain was already through the security checkpoint of Brussels Airport when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside.

Richard Norby, Joseph Empey, and Mason Wells of Utah had just finished escorting Clain of Montélimar, France, on a flight to the United States to serve in a mission in Ohio. That’s when a terrorist linked to ISIS detonated his suicide vest, killing at least 14 people and injuring dozens more, including the Americans. (The men were identified by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a statement. Clain, the church later added, also suffered minor injuries.) 

Wells is undergoing surgery on his leg to treat shrapnel wounds and burns, a friend told The Daily Beast.

“We haven’t had a lot of information,” the friend who picked up the Wells family phone said. “We know that he’s in the hospital.”

Empey’s mother wrote on Facebook that he also suffered shrapnel wounds and burns, but is expected to survive.

“He’s doing great,” said Amber Empey, his mother, to The Daily Beast.

“We are grateful that Elder Empey and his companion Elder Wells are okay,” Empey later wrote on Facebook. “He has been in contact with us. We would all like to thank you for your love and prayers.”

Norby was knocked down by the explosion and may have suffered a broken leg or ankle, according to an email from his local church leader posted on Facebook.

Norby, 66, worked in Paris to help Mormon missionaries develop a plan for their return home after their two-year stints as missionaries, which are expected of young men and often carried out by women.

Wells, 19, was on a mission in Calais, France. Wells arrived in France just a week before the Paris terrorist attacks last November (and was in the capital when ISIS-linked terrorists struck, a friend told The Daily Beast). Empey, 20, was also serving in France.

The church’s governing body also released a statement of condolence for “the heartbreaking news” of the Brussels attacks.

“Our prayers are with the families of the deceased and injured, including three of our missionaries who were injured and hospitalized,” the statement read. “We also pray for the people of Belgium and France as they continue to deal with the uncertainty and devastation caused by the recent terrorist attacks.”

A victim receives first aid by rescuers, on March 22, 2016 near Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries.

Emmanuel Dunand/Getty