Brussels victims: ‘My sister Adelma Tapia died in attack’
Details emerge of the more than 30 killed and over 260 people injured in the bombings
Adelma Tapia Ruiz, from Peru, who lived in Brussels has been identified as the first confirmed victim of the Brussels attacks. Photograph: Facebook
This undated photo provided by Chad Wells shows Mormon missionaries Mason Wells (19) of Sandy, Utah, left, and Joseph Empey (20) of Santa Clara, Utah. They both were injured in Tuesday’s explosion at the Brussels airport. Mormon church officials say missionaries from Utah were seriously injured in the Brussels airport attack. Photograph: Joseph Empey/Chad Wells via AP
As the hunt continues for the third suspect in Tuesday’s Brussels attacks, details of those killed and injured in the bombings at Brussels airport and in the metro station have begun to emerge.
At least 31 people were killed in the attacks in Brussels airport and metro station on Tuesday morning, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor. Some 260 people were wounded.
The first confirmed fatality was named as Adelma Tapia Ruiz (37), a mother of two from Peru whose death was confirmed by the country’s foreign ministry.
Ms Ruiz, who lived in Brussels, was at the airport to see off relatives of her Belgian husband, Christopher Delcambe, who was reportedly injured.
Ms Ruiz’s brother, Fernando Tapia Coral, said in an interview that the couple’s twin four-year-old daughters went outside the gate area to play shortly before the explosion and Mr Delcambe followed them.
He was unable to find Ms Ruiz after the blast. Mr Tapia Coral confirmed his sister’s death on Facebook, describing it as “incomprehensible”.
“It is very complicated to describe this pain that we are feeling at home, but as the older brother, I know I have to try,” he wrote.
“It is more difficult still to understand the way that destiny has snatched the life of a loved one, but even more incomprehensible is not being able to be close to her in this family tragedy that today knocked on the doors of my family.
“Early this morning in the Brussels airport, my sister Adelma Tapia died in the terrorist attack, unable to survive this jihadist attack that we’ll never understand.”
The family of Briton David Dixon, who is originally from Hartlepool but was living in Brussels and has been missing since the explosions, are said to be “desperately” searching for him.
Downing Street said it was concerned about a missing British national, adding that four Britons had been injured, three of whom were still in hospital.
The Dutch foreign ministry has confirmed that it is searching for two of its nationals who are missing following the explosion at Zaventem airport yesterday.
Dutch newspaper De Volkskran reported that the missing pair are from Maastricht and were travelling through Zaventem on a journey to the United States.
About a dozen American citizens were injured in the attacks including three Mormon missionaries and a US Air Force airman and four members of his family.
US state department spokesman Mark Toner could not confirm whether any US citizens had been killed. “It’s a very fluid situation on the ground there,” Mr Toner said. “We’re still getting information, we’re still trying to seek out the whereabouts of American citizens ... Obviously, Brussels on any given day, is chock full of American citizens.”
One of the American survivors of the Brussels attacks also escaped the Boston Marathon bombing three years ago.
Mason Wells (19) from Sandy, Utah, is expected to make a full recovery after the attack at Brussels airport on Tuesday. He had been standing within feet of one of the bombs and suffered a severed Achilles tendon, gashed head, shrapnel injuries and severe burns.
Three years ago, in April 2013, Mr Wells and his father felt the ground shake and narrowly escaped death in the US when a pressure-cooker bomb exploded a block away from where they were watching his mother run the Boston Marathon. “Hopefully he’s run his lifelong odds and we’re done,” said Chad Wells about the eldest of his five children. “I think it will make him a stronger person ... Maybe the Boston experience was there to help him get through this experience.”
The former high school football and lacrosse player had four months left on his two-year Mormon mission, and was planning to study engineering at the University of Utah next autumn. He also wanted to reapply to the Naval Academy after barely missing the cut after high school, his father said.
Mormon missionaries Richard Norby (66) of Lehi, and Joseph Empey (20) of Santa Clara, were with Mason Wells at the airport and were also admitted to hospital after suffering serious injuries from the blast. Mr Empey is doing well after being treated for second-degree burns to his hands, face and head, his parents, Court and Amber Empey said in a statement. He also had surgery for shrapnel injuries to his legs. “We have been in touch with him and he is grateful and in good spirits,” the family said.
The three men were at the airport with Fanny Rachel Clain, 20, of Montelimar, France, who was on her way to a missionary assignment in Cleveland. She had passed through security to a different part of the airport at the time of the explosion.
Apart from the eight Americans confirmed as wounded on Tuesday, US media reported on Wednesday that relatives of at least four other Americans who had been travelling in Belgium are still trying to track them down.
Husband and wife Justin and Stephanie Shults, originally from Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively, but now living in Belgium, were also missing after having dropped off a relative at the airport shortly before the blasts.
Justin Shults’ brother, Levi Sutton, said in an electronic message. “We haven’t been able to contact them going on 30 hours. Stephanie’s mom is fine but she was separated from Justin and Stephanie.”
Sister and brother Sascha and Alexander Pinczowski, who had been living in New York, remain unaccounted for, the New York Daily News reported, citing a family friend and a Dutch newspaper. The Pinczowskis’ citizenship was unclear.
Raghavendra Ganeshan, an Indian national who works in Brussels, has also been missing since the attacks. His mother Annapoorni Ganeshan told the News Minute that said she spoke to him before he left for work on Tuesday and that he took the metro line that was hit to the office every day.
“He told me that he was leaving to work,” said Ms Ganeshan. “About an hour later I got a call from my other son, who lives in Germany, saying that there was a blast in Brussels. I checked the news. Initially I only saw it was in the airport. But later there were news flashes that there was a blast in the metro line- Merode to Park station. This is the metro my son uses to commute to [THE]office every day.”
At least 19 Portuguese were injured in the attacks, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Patricia Kowsmann . There is a large community of Portuguese ex-pats in Brussels - 50,000 immigrants, according to Kowsmann, citing government figures.
The photograph of Brazilian basketball player Sebastien Bellin lying injured on the airport floor quickly spread through online media outlets on Tuesday following the attacks.
Mr Bellin was thrown two metres into the air by the blast and was injured by shrapnel in his left leg and right hip, according to his father Jean Bellin. Mr Bellin has reportedly undergone surgery but is “doing well” according to his father.
At least 14 people died when two bombs were detonated in the departure hall of Brussels airport at approximately 8am local time, shattering glass windows and bringing down a cascade of ceiling tiles on the dead and wounded.
About an hour later and 11km west of the airport, a bomb exploded on a packed rush-hour train as it was pulling out of a metro station in the EU district of the city.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said to date they had not information to suggest that Irish nationals had been killed or injured.