Missionary describes experience in Spanish train derailment

Posted at 12:02 PM, Jul 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-26 10:32:03-04

A missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Bountiful was one of the passengers injured when a train derailed in northwestern Spain Wednesday.

Elder Stephen Ward, 18, of Bountiful, is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sustained head and neck injuries in the crash. He was released from the hospital in Spain on Thursday.

More than 80 people died in the crash, and Elder Ward is among the more than 200 injured. He had just completed training in Madrid and was headed to his first assignment.

"I'm so grateful that I was able to come through this with relatively minor injury given the situation," Elder Ward said.

He said he does not remember the crash, but has vivid memories of the aftermath. "The train was in a ditch, so I walked up out of a ditch. I think someone was holding me. They sat me down and starting pulling other people out and after a couple of minutes, I began to realize, this isn't a dream."

Elder Ward's most serious injury is a fracture to his neck and will be wearing a neck brace for the next three weeks. He plans to finish his mission and his parents, Ray and Beverly Ward, said they are not surprised by his determination.

"We have been through this before, Stephen had cancer like three years ago, three and a half years ago even he was 15," said Ray Ward.

Elder Ward's mission president is an orthopedic surgeon. In addition to the doctors in Spain who have tended to him, Ward is also being looked after by his own mission president.

Speaking on the phone to his parents, Elder Ward said "I love you and I'll see you in a couple of years. Hopefully this is the last time I'll have to call you for something like this."

Watch excerpts from Stephen's interview with CNN:

Security camera footage of the derailment: