Elder Stephen Ward, 18, is serving in the Spain Madrid Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He had completed six weeks of training in the Madrid Missionary Training Center and was en route to his first assignment.
Elder Ward spoke with Reporter Cristina Rendon by phone on a call to his parents Thursday. He said he thought he was dreaming when he was pulled from the wreckage by a stranger.
The train was traveling at twice the permitted speed, causing it to crash as it rounded a bend.
“I don’t know if I'm going to be traumatized later on,” Elder Ward said. “I walked past my fair share of dead bodies, limbs and blood everywhere. Honestly it doesn't bother me yet so hopefully it stays that way.”
Parents Ray and Beverly Ward heard about their son being hospitalized while they were on vacation at the Aspen Grove Family Center in Provo canyon.
“I immediately went to the thought that his cancer was back,” Beverly said.
Their stake president in Bountiful explained their son was a survivor of the accident.
“The sadness and shock of how horrible an accident it was and how people were killed, it was just terrible,” Ray said.
Elder Ward has a fractured neck, cuts to his face and a large bruise on one of his legs, but he is in good spirits. He was released from a hospital in Spain with a neck brace.
This isn’t the teenager’s first brush with death.
The missionary had a cancerous tumor in his abdomen removed when he was 15. It quickly came back and forced the teen to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.
“He's escaped death narrowly two or three times already so it just seems amazing that it would happen again,” Ray said.
Elder Ward said in spite of the crash he is committed to finishing his mission.
“I really want to stay out here for the full two years, yes,” he said. “I absolutely love it.”
Elder Ward will now stay in the Spain Madrid Mission Home for observation in the next several days. His next destination will be decided at that point.