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4 LDS missionaries injured in Brussels airport terrorist attack recovering from burns, shrapnel wounds

Published: Tuesday, March 22 2016 8:20 a.m. MDT

Elder Mason Wells, left, of Sandy, Utah, and Elder Joseph Dresden Empey, of Santa Clara, Utah, became companions in the France Paris Mission on Feb. 17, 2016.

Courtesy of Empey family

Heat from one of the terrorist bombs that exploded at the Brussels airport on Tuesday seared second-degree burns into the skin of three Mormon missionaries feet from the blast.

The bomb also drove shrapnel into each of their legs. Eyewitnesses said the explosions burst windows, brought down ceilings and ruptured pipes.

Doctors have put one of the missionaries, Elder Richard J. Norby, 66, of Lehi, Utah, in a medically induced coma after surgery, and his family said Wednesday he faces a lengthy recovery from shrapnel injuries and second-degree burns to his head and neck as well as a more serious shrapnel wound to his lower leg.

The two young missionaries who were with Elder Norby near the bomb site have spoken to their families.

"Mom," said Elder Mason Wells, 19, when he woke up after surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles' tendon and called his mother in Sandy, Utah, "I was right by it."

Doctors also operated on the legs of his mission companion, Elder Joseph Dresden Empey, 20, of Santa Clara, Utah.

Those three Mormon elders and and a fourth missionary injured in the bombing are recovering from their injuries in Belgian hospitals. Their families and friends have begun to share the anxiety they felt when they first learned about the deadly attacks and the relief their missionaries shared with them over their survival.

"He sounded groggy, he sounded tired, he sounded a little disoriented, but he sounded relieved to be able to talk to us," Elder Wells' father, Chad Wells, told NBC News. "And it was great hearing his voice. It was a short call, but it was fabulous to be able to hear his voice and to know that he's OK, he's alive and that he will recover from his injuries."

Other injuries

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.

Elder Norby was knocked to the ground by one of what investigators said may have been two suicide bombs detonated just before 8 a.m.

"After a lengthy surgery, he was placed in a medically induced coma," his family said in a statement, "and will remain in this state for the next few days, with a lengthy recovery expected. His wife, Pamela Norby, was not at the airport at the time of the attack and is supporting him during this challenging time.

"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. 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."

A fourth missionary the three men brought to the airport, Sister Fanny Rachel Clain, 20, of Montélimar, France, had left the men and passed through security to catch a flight to the United States, where she was scheduled to begin her missionary service in the Ohio Cleveland Mission.

Sister Clain sustained minor burns and cuts.

All four had been serving in the France Paris Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sister Clain had been awaiting a permanent visa for the United States, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said.

The LDS Church's First Presidency released a statement Tuesday morning:

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