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Brussels bombings: Life stories of the dead

Commuters, travellers, expatriates: Brussels victims came from around the world


 
Hundreds of people come together at Place de la Bourse to mourn on Wednesday evening, March 23, 2016. Bombs exploded yesterday at the Brussels airport and one of the city's metro stations, killing and wounding scores of people, as a European capital was again locked down amid heightened security threats. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Hundreds of people come together at Place de la Bourse to mourn on Wednesday evening, March 23, 2016. (Martin Meissner, AP)

Victims of the attacks on Brussels’ airport and subway included commuters heading to work, travellers starting long-anticipated vacations, expatriates setting out to visit distant homelands. They came from dozens of nations to a cosmopolitan city that’s home to the European Union, NATO and other international institutions.

Among the confirmed dead:

Gail Minglana Martinez

Gail Minglana Martinez had travelled the world, and her Facebook page carried a line from J.R.R. Tolkien: “Not all who wander are lost.”

A native of southeast Texas married to a U.S. Air Force officer, 41-year-old Martinez was killed in the March 22 attack on Brussels airport. Her husband and their four children were all wounded.

Martinez’ death was confirmed by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, who said in a statement that he had spoken to Martinez’s brother. Her husband, Lt. Col. Kato Martinez — a military assistant to the commander at NATO’s Joint Force Command in the Netherlands — and the couple’s four children remain hospitalized.

Gail Minglana Martinez grew up in Corpus Christi, a city on the Gulf of Mexico southwest of Houston, and graduated from a local high school in 1992.

“She was a fireball,” said David Hiser, who was Martinez’s choir teacher in middle and high school. “Huge laugh. I just remember her personality and what an amazing kid she was.”

After graduation, she and her husband moved around the world with their children. Her Facebook page carries pictures of the family smiling on the beach and at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Gail Martinez’s family said in a statement Tuesday that family members had spoken to Kato Martinez, but declined to comment on what they had been told about the family’s condition.

“Gail was special to so many people,” the statement said. “She blessed people’s lives and made this world a better place.”

Nic Coopman

Calm and cool-headed, Belgian national Nic Coopman was a highly valued employee of a family firm in Kansas.

The 58-year-old was at Brussels Airport to catch a business flight to Zurich when he was killed in the March 22 bombings.

Coopman’s death was confirmed by Sabetha, Kansas-based Wenger Manufacturing, his employer of 16 years. Coopman was a service technician in the Antwerp office of the firm, which makes extrusion equipment for the food and feed industry.

The company said Coopman provided European clients with “commissioning, training and technical support.” It said Coopman’s “calm manner, professionalism and a dry sense of humour earned him significant respect and admiration from his clients and colleagues alike.”

Coopman, who came from the Dutch-speaking Flanders region of Belgium, is survived by his wife.

Deng Jingquan

Deng Jingquan, also known as Frank, had recently left a job with an established medical devices company to strike out on his own as an Internet entrepreneur.

The 24-year-old Chinese founder of Guoguoxianchi Internet Technology Co. had previously worked in overseas sales for Comen Medical Instruments and was based in Indonesia for nearly two years. Both companies were based in the southern manufacturing and technology powerhouse of Shenzhen just across the border from Hong Kong.

Like many in his generation, Deng seemed to be drawn by the excitement and adventure of a startup project. He was at Brussels Airport preparing to head to Slovenia on a sales trip when he was killed.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Deng was a graduate of the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in the southern Chinese city of the same name that invented porcelain and kept it a carefully guarded secret for centuries.

Pointing to a thirst for success in business, he listed former General Electric chief executive Jack Welch and his successor, Jeff Immelt, among his influences.

Yves Cibuabua

Hard work and family were the pillars of Yves Cibuabua’s life.

The young Belgian of Congolese origin worked in securities at Banque ENI and was studying for a certificate in business auditing at Louvain Catholic University. He already had a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in economics from the same university.

The university confirmed on its website that the 27-year-old died in the bomb attack on Maelbeek station.

On LinkedIn, Cibuabua described himself as “brave, passionate and a hard-working person.” On his Instagram page he said he was “a husband and father first.”

He and his wife, Larissa Scelfo Ciyombo, had daughters aged 3 and 5. “My lil angels,” he called them in his last Instagram post in early March.

On Facebook, colleague Lisa Inferrera remembered a kind and smiling man and said others could “feel the love you had for your wife and little girls. … You radiated something really positive.”

Sabrina Esmael Fazal

Sabrina Esmael Fazal was a warm and sunny nursing student with a 100-watt smile.

Friends and family confirmed on Facebook that Fazal, a 24-year-old Belgian, was among those killed in the attacks at Maelbeek station.

Her 25-year-old boyfriend Jonathan Selemani, a soccer player, saw her off that morning as she headed to a nursing class at the Haute Ecole Galilee, her daily routine. It was the last time he saw her alive.

Fazal had a young son with Selemani, who has since lined his Facebook page with radiant photos of her and the son.

Fazal was proud of her Congolese roots and once worked as a reporter for a local Congolese-community website.

Loubna Lafquiri

Moroccan King Mohammed VI sent a message of condolence and compassion to the family of Loubna Lafquiri, a Brussels-based Moroccan national killed in the bombings.

King Mohammed said that he felt “profound distress and great pain” on learning of the death of Lafquiri.

The royal message was delivered Tuesday to Lafquiri’s family home by the Moroccan ambassador to Belgium, Samir Addahre.

The mother of three was a sports-mad gymnastics teacher who taught at a private Muslim school, La Vertu, in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels.

She died in the bombing at Maelbeek station.

A friend, Elizabeth Uribe Meneses, told Paris Match that Lafquiri had had “an incredible love of life” and displayed “beauty inside and out.”

Aline Bastin

Aline Bastin, 29, was press and communications manager for The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies. She was on the subway on her way to work when the bomb went off.

In a death notice, her family said the woman from Liege in French-speaking eastern Belgium was “cut down by barbarism in her 29th spring.”

After the blasts, Bastin was among those listed as missing. Her family searched desperately for information, but after a few days, her mother said they had lost hope.

“She is never coming back,” her mother, Chantal Beaufays, told La Meuse. “Our beautiful Aline is never coming back.”

On Facebook her mother shared emotional songs, including Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah,” the hymn “Amazing Grace” and the 1960s French ballad “Aline.” Its lyrics say, “And I cried, cried ‘Aline’ so she’d come back.”

Alex and Sascha Pinczowski

James Cain learned only on March 22 that his daughter had married Alex Pinczowski. Two days later, he learned that Alex and his sister Sascha, Dutch siblings who lived in New York, had both died the same day, in the Brussels airport suicide bombing.

As Cain and his daughter Cameron hunted for news about Alex and Sascha following the deadly blasts in the Belgian capital, Cameron told her father she had married Alex in 2013.

Cain called the news of his daughter’s marriage “the bright spot in our otherwise anguishing week.”

Alex and Sascha were headed home to the United States. Alex, 29, was on the phone with his mother in the Netherlands when the line went dead as a bomb detonated.

Alex had travelled to the Netherlands to work on a craft-related business that he and Cameron were planning to start together, Cain said. The couple met six years ago while taking summer courses in Durham, North Carolina.

Sascha Pinczowski, 26, was a 2015 graduate of Marymount Manhattan College in New York with a degree in business.

In November, Sascha had warned that demonizing Muslims would fuel extremist recruitment. She posted on Facebook after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks: “Ignorant spreading of anti-Muslim sentiment and propaganda does nothing but benefit ISIS.”

Cain said she was “just full of life — I’d say effervescent.” Her older brother was quieter, “a great wit but a gentle soul. … He had a sentimental side and he loved the outdoors.”

Speaking to the AP in the Dutch city of Maastricht, where the siblings will be buried Friday, Cain — a former U.S. ambassador to Denmark — said: “Knowing that they were together, and will now be together for eternity, in a way brings a little bit of peace.”

Fabienne Vansteenkiste

Fabienne Vansteenkiste, 51, was due to finish her shift checking in baggage at Brussels’ airport last Tuesday at 6. a.m. She agreed to work two extra hours to help a colleague. That decision proved fatal.

Vansteenkiste was still at the airport when two bombs exploded, killing her and 10 others.

Her husband, Eddy Van Calster, told French broadcaster TF1 Sunday that his late wife often said to him: “I’m going to die in an attack.” He said that she had feared that an attack was likely at the airport during the busy morning peak time.

Van Calster said he and his wife were childhood sweethearts, inseparable during their 35-year marriage.

“She was all my life,” he said. “She was the white keys of the piano, and I the black.”

Van Calster, who practiced Buddhist meditation with his wife, said he doesn’t “feel hatred or anger”toward her killers.

Lauriane Visart

Lauriane Visart was a young lawyer with strong principles.

The 27-year-old Belgian was a 2012 graduate of Louvain Catholic University. Marc Verdussen of the university’s Center for Research on the State and Constitution described her as an intelligent student “passionate about public law.”

Visart worked at the Union Nationale des Mutualites Socialistes, a health insurance body. She was killed in Maelbeek station bombing.

Her father Michel Visart, a Belgian television journalist, said his daughter had strong values “which she defended ferociously, such as fairness, justice, tolerance, equality of the sexes.”

He urged people not to respond to the attacks with hatred.

“I’m not naive. I know very well that security is essential these days,” he told Belgian broadcaseter RTBF. “But I think that if we build walls of exclusion, if we cultivate hatred, we’re heading for disaster.

“In the future, if we want a different world, we need respect and tolerance. I don’t want to be maudlin, but we also need love. And we owe it to all the Laurianes all around the world.”

My Atlegrim

My Atlegrim moved to Brussels to improve her French, and ended up falling in love with the city and its people.

Originally from Umea in northern Sweden, the 30-year-old illustrator and textile designer died in the subway blast.

She drew illustrations for art and children’s magazines, including culture magazine Alphabeta, which said it had been proud to showcase her “wild and free” style.

A 2013 profile of Atlegrim by Agenda, a Brussels culture magazine, said she moved to Belgium in 2005 and studied illustration at the art school ESA Saint-Luc.

“The people are very nice, very mellow for inhabitants of a big city. Brussels is a city teeming with life, but in a somewhat hidden, underground way,” she was quoted as saying. “And that is precisely what gives the city its unique charm.”

Atlegrim volunteered for an information service for young people visiting Brussels.

Her mother confirmed Tuesday that Atlegrim was among the fatalities. She had been reported missing after the subway explosion.

Raghavendran Ganesan

Days before the Brussels attacks, Raghavendran Ganesan returned to his work in Brussels from his homeland of India, where his wife had given birth to their son.

On the morning of March 22, the 31-year-old software engineer spoke by Skype to his mother in Mumbai just an hour before the attacks, mostly about about his job at IT giant Infosys.

Then he set off for work by subway, his usual routine for the past four years.

As television stations worldwide flashed news of the attacks, Ganesan’s family tried desperately to trace him. His brother posted an appeal on his Facebook page.

Six days later, Belgian officials confirmed that Ganesan’s body had been found inside the devastated subway train at Maelbeek station.

“Unfortunately, he was travelling in the same coach of the metro in which the suicide bomber blew himself up,” India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, said in a tweet.

Infosys confirmed the news. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Raghavendran’s family and with those who were injured and lost a loved one in these attacks,” the company said in a statement.

Ganesan’s parents and his brother accompanied his remains Tuesday from Brussels to the southern Indian city of Chennai, where his wife and month-old son live. The family has yet to decide on the time of the cremation, Press Trust of India said.

Gilles Laurent

Gilles Laurent was a master of sound.

A sound recordist and engineer, he had worked on movies all over the world, including Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ Cannes Film Festival entry “Post Tenebras Lux” and Argentinian drama “The Tango Singer.”

Laurent, who lived in the southern Belgian city of Namur, was on the subway train targeted by a bomb inside Maelbeek station.

Israeli cartoonist Michel Kichka, who worked with Laurent on the documentary “Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy,” paid tribute on his blog to Laurent’s kindness and “Olympian calm.”

The 46-year-old came from Bouillon in southern Belgium, where his parents own the Porte de France hotel. Friends were invited to pay their last respects to him at the hotel Tuesday.

He leaves behind his wife, Reiko Udo, daughters Suzu and Lili and a large extended family. “You have been snatched from us by a tragic destiny, but you will always remain at our sides,” they wrote in a death notice.

Melanie Defize

The loss of 29-year-old Melanie Defize, who died in the subway attack, sent shockwaves throughout the classical music world. She was an accomplished music producer and violinist.

She was an integral part of the independent label Cypres Records, which publishes music ranging from medieval to contemporary. She wrote for Forumopera.com, sharing her enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the music scene.

Cedric Hustinx, who worked with her at Cypres, said her death leaves an unfillable void. He said she brought luminous enthusiasm and a sensitive nature to her work.

Her colleagues at Forumopera.com posted a Facebook tribute to Defize that described her as funny and irreverent. It said she loved Jeff Buckley and Radiohead as well as classical works. Her co-workers said the grief of losing her in such a vile way seems insurmountable.

Bart Migom

Belgian student Bart Migom was travelling from Brussels to Atlanta to visit his girlfriend when he was caught in the attack on Brussels Airport.

Staff and students at Howest University in Bruges, Belgium, held a service for him over Easter weekend after his death was confirmed.

Migom, 21, had called his girlfriend, Emily Eisenman, while travelling to the airport and planned to send a follow-up message as he boarded the plane. Eisenman told NBC News he had promised to keep in touch every step of the way on his journey to Atlanta. She said his last words to her were “I love you.”

She described being awakened in the middle of the night by a call from Migom’s family telling her about the bombings.

A Facebook post by Lode De Geyter, the managing director at Howest, said Migom was a second-year marketing student.

Andre Adam

Gigi Adam said her 79-year-old father, Andre Adam, died trying to protect his wife during the attack on Brussels airport.

Adam was a retired Belgian diplomat who had served as his country’s ambassador to Cuba, the United States and the United Nations.

“His death has wounded us all forever,” Gigi Adam wrote on Facebook. “All his life he had worked towards the peaceful resolution of conflict in the world.”

She described her father as “a cultured and cheerful man” who had met his future wife — “the love of his life” — on his posting to Cuba in the early 1960s. She said her mother had been hospitalized after the attack.

Gigi Adam said her parents had retired to southwest France in recent years.

Justin Shults and Stephanie Shults

A missing American couple have been identified as victims of the attack at the Brussels airport, according to their employers.

Justin Shults, 30, and wife Stephanie Shults had not been seen since Tuesday.

Her employer, Mars Inc., said in a Facebook post Saturday evening that her family had confirmed that the couple died in the bombings at the Brussels airport. Justin Shults’ employer, Clarcor, had confirmed his death earlier.

Justin Shults, originally from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and his wife, a Lexington, Kentucky, native, graduated together from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. They were dropping Stephanie’s mother off at the airport and were watching her walk through security when the bombs went off, a family member said.

Justin Shults’ brother, Levi Sutton, wrote on social media Saturday that his brother “travelled the world, leaving each destination better than when he arrived.”

Patricia Rizzo

Patricia Rizzo’s family hails from a tiny town in Sicily, but she was as broadly European as they come.

Born in Belgium to a family originally from Calascibetta, near Enna, Sicily, Rizzo graduated from a Belgian university and worked for several Belgian companies as an executive secretary before joining European institutions in 1995.

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed Friday that Rizzo, 48, was among the dead from the attack on Maelbeek station.

“Unfortunately, Patricia is no longer with us,” a man who identified himself as Rizzo’s cousin, Massimo Leonora, wrote on Facebook. His final post capped days of anxious updates recounting his search of Brussels hospitals in hopes that Rizzo might have been among the injured.

“It’s difficult, but at least now we’re beyond this unending race against time to find you.”

Rizzo moved back to Italy from 2003 to 2008 to work as the assistant to the executive director of the European Food Safety Authority.

In 2008, she was named human resources assistant for the EU’s education and culture agency in Brussels and for the past five months had worked in the human resources department of the European Research Council.

“After a few days of excruciating waiting and angst, our worst fears have been confirmed,” the ERC’s executive leadership said Saturday, praising Rizzo’s energy, attitude and spirit.

The council said Rizzo is survived by a son and her parents.

Jennifer Scintu Waetzmann

Jennifer Scintu Waetzmann was a coach for a youth handball club in Aachen, Germany.

Her uncle, Claudio Scinto, told the German newspaper Bild that she and her husband were checking in Tuesday morning at Brussels Airport bound for a belated honeymoon in New York when the first bomb exploded.

The blast killed her and left her husband, Lars Waetzmann, among the 270 wounded in Brussels.

Her final public post on Facebook came right after the November extremist assaults on Paris. It said: “Pray for Paris.” Other pictures show her and her husband in romantic seaside settings with the inscription: “Love of my life.”

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday his thoughts were with Waetzmann’s family and vowed Germany “will not rest until the murderers and those who aided them are held responsible.”

Elita Borbor Weah

Elita Borbor Weah, who was heading to Rhode Island for her stepfather’s funeral, had texted family members a photo of herself Tuesday at Brussels Airport.

A short time later, two suicide bombers struck the airport, killing her.

The 40-year-old had been living in the Netherlands with her 13-year-old daughter after her extended family from Liberia had dispersed across West Africa, Europe and the United States following Liberia’s civil wars.

Her brother Oscar Weah, of Providence, Rhode Island, was shaking and in tears Friday as he described how his older sister helped care for him over the years. Other relatives sang her praises.

“She had a good heart,” said 14-year-old niece Eden Weah. “She was always worried about everybody.”

Now, in addition to holding a funeral for her 87-year-old stepfather, the family was making arrangements to care for her teenage daughter.

David Dixon

David Dixon had texted family members to say he was safe after two bombs severely damaged Brussels airport, but he was killed shortly afterward when a bomber attacked the subway system.

Dixon, a 53-year-old British citizen, was working as a computer programmer. Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed his death Friday.

Friends and family had been searching for him since he failed to arrive at work Tuesday morning after the bombings. Press reports indicated he lived in Brussels with his partner and their son.

“This morning we received the most terrible and devastating news about our beloved David,” said a statement sent out by officials on behalf of Dixon’s family.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was deeply saddened by the death of Dixon, who was originally from Hartlepool in northeastern England.

Adelma Tapia Ruiz

Born in Peru, Adelma Tapia Ruiz dreamed of opening a restaurant. She had lived in Belgium for nine years but still cooked the recipes of her homeland. Last year she prepared the spicy chicken dish aji de gallina for a food festival organized by the Peruvian consulate in Brussels.

Tapia, 37, was killed when a bomb tore through the departures area of Brussels Airport on Tuesday, her family confirmed. A split-second decision saved her husband and 4-year-old twin daughters Maureen and Alondra from sharing her fate.

Her Belgian husband, Christophe Delcambe, had taken the girls out of the check-in line to play when an explosion ripped through the concourse. One daughter was struck in the arm by shrapnel and is being treated in a Belgian hospital.

Her brother, Fernando Tapia, told The Associated Press his sister had been preparing to catch a flight to New York to visit two sisters who live in the United States.

Tapia and her husband lived in the town of Tubize, south of Brussels, and her brother said she would likely be buried in Belgium.

Leopold Hecht

Leopold Hecht was gravely wounded in the bombing at Maelbeek subway station and died later of his injuries.

The rector of Saint-Louis University in Brussels, Pierre Jadoul, said 20-year-old Hecht was “one of the unfortunate victims of these barbaric acts.”

“There are no words to describe our dismay at this news,” he said in a letter to students.

Classmates lit handles and left flowers outside the university in memory of Hecht, whose Facebook profile includes pictures of a smiling young man on the ski slopes and in the great outdoors.

Olivier Delespesse

Civil servant Olivier Delespesse also died in the bombing at Maelbeek station, according to his employer, the Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles.

Delespesse, 45, worked in the education ministry for the federation, a government department for the French-speaking part of Belgium.

Colleagues remembered an amiable man, always ready with a smile. “Always cheerful and doing the maximum possible to help others,” wrote Fadi Dalati on Facebook.

Nomaan Merchant reported from Dallas, Jill Lawless from London. Associated Press reporters Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, Thomas Adamson in Paris, Mike Corder in Amsterdam, Karl Ritter in Stockholm, Nirmala George in New Delhi, Danica Kirka and Gregory Katz in London, Raf Casert in Brussels, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Ula Ilnytzky in New York, Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin, Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Franklin Briceno in Lima, Peru, contributed to this story.

 


 

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