Utah Train Wreck Survivor Has Cheated Death Twice

Stephen Ward nearly died while undergoing a bone marrow transplant 4 years ago

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jul 26, 2013 8:37 AM CDT

(Newser) – Seconds before the Spanish train he was aboard lifted off the tracks "like a roller coaster," Mormon missionary Stephen Ward said he glanced up from the journal he was writing in and noticed a backpack tumble from a rack. Moments later, the 18-year-old from Bountiful, Utah, blacked out as the train smashed into a concrete wall at high speed. He awoke to a scene that seemed like a nightmare, his face caked in blood, his leg bruised, and his neck injured. But he survived a horrific crash that killed at least 78 people—his latest brush with death.

Four years earlier, Ward was diagnosed with a rare cancer known as Burkitt's lymphoma and nearly died while undergoing a bone marrow transplant. "From a religious standpoint, I'd like to say that God has something in store for me and that there's a reason I'm still here," Ward said in a phone interview from La Coruna, Spain. He suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck but has been discharged from the hospital, and expects to stay in Spain to complete his two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he started six weeks ago. Ward was actually supposed to board an earlier train from Madrid to El Ferrol, but he accidentally bought a ticket for the wrong day and instead went on the later train, which ended up crashing.

This Thursday, July 25, 2013 photo provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shows young Mormon missionary from Utah, Stephen Ward, 18, hospitalized.   (Scott Jackson)
This image taken from security camera video shows a train derailing in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.   (Uncredited)
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