US victim of Brussels bombing 'lucky' to be alive

25th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

A young American missionary who survived the blasts in Brussels with serious injuries says he's lucky to be alive after previous brushes with fate at the Boston Marathon bombings and the France terror attacks.

Mason Wells, a Mormon missionary from Utah, was standing in line at a Delta check-in counter when the first explosion went off just feet (meters) away, he told CNN on Friday.

"My body was actually picked up off the ground," he said. "My left shoe was blown off and a large part of the right side of my body got really hot and then really cold and I was covered in... a lot of blood that wasn't mine."

It wasn't the first time the 19-year-old had been near a terror attack.

Three years ago, Wells walked away from the Boston Marathon attacks unscathed, even though he was standing at the finish line when two bombs detonated close by, killing three people and injuring more than 250.

In November, Wells was in France when members of the Islamic State group attacked a concert hall, a stadium and restaurants and bars, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

Wells says he was "lucky" to be alive despite suffering extensive injuries on Tuesday, including shrapnel wounds, a ruptured Achilles tendon and second- and third-degree burns on his hands and face.

Speaking from his hospital bed, his face swathed in bandages, he said he had started to run toward an exit when the second bomb detonated.

"I actually felt the explosion on my right side, I could feel the blast," he said. After that, he added, he saw many injured and dead people.

The bombings at the airport and the Brussels metro killed 31 and wounded some 300.

At least two Americans died in the attacks and several others are reported missing, officials said. The missing include Justin and Stephanie Shults, who had accompanied her mother to the airport, according to American press reports.

- 'Our hearts break' -

Among the dead were Sascha and Alexander Pinczowski, Dutch siblings who had been living in New York for years.

"Our hearts break for the family and friends" of the two, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement extending condolences on behalf of the city.

Governor Andrew Cuomo also said New Yorkers were saddened to learn of the deaths "in Tuesday's heartbreaking attacks."

The brother and sister were at the airport on their way back to the United States.

Alexander was talking to his mother when the call was suddenly cut short by an explosion, said James Cain, former US ambassador to Denmark and the father of Alexander's fiancee.

According to Sascha's LinkedIn page, she studied business at Marymount Manhattan College and had been a production intern at an events company after interning for UNICEF. She had hoped to settle permanently in the United States.

Wells, the Mormon missionary, said he has struggled to understand how he came to be so close to three separate terror attacks.

"I don't know why I was in those places," he told ABC News, adding, "I believe that God's plan is a lot bigger than maybe we imagine."

Wells had gone to the airport with two other Mormon missionaries -- Richard Norby, 66, and Joseph Empey, 20, both of Utah -- to escort a fellow missionary, the Frenchwoman Fanny Clain, 20, as she prepared to depart for an assignment in Ohio.

All were seriously injured.

Norby and Empey underwent surgery for shrapnel wounds and were treated for second-degree burns, ABC News reported.

Clain, who is from Reunion -- a French island in the Indian Ocean -- was badly burned.

Speaking to CNN from her hospital bed on Thursday, her face and hands bandaged after surgery, she said she believed the attackers had been brainwashed.

"I think it's just like sad people and other more sad people who came together and wanted to make something huge," she said. "But all this sadness became into craziness and then they want all the world to be sad as well."

Asked how he felt about the experience, Wells told CNN his thoughts are with those who suffered worse injuries.

"I hope that they're doing okay," he said. "I've just wanted to pray for them."


© 2016 AFP

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