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Senior-most LDS missionary injured in Brussels blast returns to Utah

The Mormon missionary hurt worst in the March 22 Brussels airport bombing has returned to Utah, nearly three weeks after the return of two other Utah missionaries.

Elder Richard Norby, 66, of Lehi, Utah, flew Saturday on an air ambulance to the United States, accompanied by his wife, Sister Pam Norby. He was admitted to Salt Lake City’s University of Utah Medical Center to receive ongoing care for burns and shrapnel wounds suffered in the blast.

On Saturday, the Norby family released a statement that read:

"Elder Richard Norby has made positive strides in his recovery over the past many days. His feeding tube was removed earlier this week and he is enjoying solid foods again. He is more alert and has repeatedly thanked his Belgian medical staff for their care and concern.

"On Saturday, April 16, 2016, twenty-six days after the Brussels terrorist attacks, Elder Norby, accompanied by his wife, returned to the United States on an air ambulance plane. He was admitted to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is receiving continued care for his burns and shrapnel wounds.

"As his family, we would like to sincerely thank the many nurses and physicians at the A.Z. Jan Portaels Hospital and the Queen Astrid Military Hospital that have cared for our husband and father with sympathy, professionalism, and love over these many weeks. You have become our friends and answers to our prayers. At the time of this next step in his care, we are still very mindful of the many other victims and families that are suffering and in mourning. You remain in our prayers."

Two bombs were detonated near Norby in the airport's international departure hall while he stood next to three young missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The first blast broke Norby's left fibula and left heel and sprayed him with shrapnel. He also suffered second-degree burns to his face, ears, sides of his head, leg and the backs of his hands. He later suffered an infection while hospitalized in Brussels.

Doctors found shrapnel wounds up to 2 inches deep on Norby's neck, back, hip and legs. They told his wife it was a blessing he wasn't turned toward the explosions because the metal would have sheared vital organs.

Doctors placed Norby in a medically induced coma for four days after the attack to allow his body to heal.

Norby drove Elder Mason Wells, 19, of Sandy, Utah, and Elder Joseph Dresden Empey, 20, of Santa Clara, Utah, to a Brussels train station early on the morning of March 22 to pick up a sister missionary and accompany her to the airport.

Sister Fanny Clain, 20, of Reunion Island, France, was scheduled to catch a 10 a.m. flight to Atlanta on her way to the church's Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

The initial blast drove the iPad from Wells' hand, blew his watch off his left wrist and the shoe off his left foot. A large piece of shrapnel ruptured his left Achilles tendon, broke his left heel and tore off a large patch of skin near those wounds. He also suffered second-degree burns to his face and hand.

The explosion knocked out Empey, who received second-degree burns to his hands and face. He still has a chunk of shredded metal lodged on top of his left foot.

Wells and Empey returned to the United States on air ambulance flights. Wells flew to Utah on March 28 and is being treated at University Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Empey returned March 29. After an eight-day stay at University Hospital, he returned to his family's home earlier this month. Both men have been released from missionary service.

Clain, who also suffered second-degree burns, remains in an Antwerp hospital. Her shrapnel wounds caused an infection in her blood, so doctors put her on an antibiotic treatment earlier this month. She is determined to complete her mission to Ohio.