LDS missionary dies 3 days after Idaho car crash


BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A 19-year-old Mormon missionary from California has died three days after he was critically injured in a car crash in Idaho — becoming the 10th proselyting member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to die this year.

Taylor Ward, of Vacaville, Calif., died Friday afternoon at Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho, said hospital spokeswoman Brenda Stanley. Ward had been in critical condition on life support since Tuesday when a car he was a passenger in collided with a pickup truck in southeastern Idaho.

The driver of his car was another missionary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 20-year-old John Floyd of Deep Run, N.C. He suffered minor injuries. Floyd drove through a stop light before crashing into the passenger side of the Ford F350, according to Idaho state police spokeswoman Teresa Baker.

The investigation of the incident hasn’t been completed, she said, and it’s unclear if charges will be filed against Floyd or the driver of the truck.

Ward, who began his mission in July, is the 10th missionary to die while serving this year, said Mormon church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

Including Ward, six have died in accidents. Four others have died from illnesses, such as an aneurysm, heart attack and tuberculosis meningitis. Nine have been men, and one was a woman. Five have occurred in the United States, and five in foreign countries.

Spurred by an historic lowering of the minimum age for missionaries, the Utah-based faith has more ambassadors serving around the world than at any time in the church’s history.

The 77,000 missionaries are a 32 percent increase from about 58,000 a year ago. The church expects the number to swell to 85,000 by year’s end.

Last October, the church announced men could begin serving at 18, instead of 19, and women at 19, instead of 21. That’s led to new, younger missionaries joining older ones already planning to go.

There are usually only a few deaths of missionaries each year, Hawkins said. But there have been two recent years similar to this one: in 2003 there were nine missionary deaths and in 2008 there were eight, church figures show.

Church officials note that even one missionary death is too many, but say the recent rash of deaths is not a trend. They said in a posting to the church website that the rate of deaths among missionaries is lower than the mortality rate for the same age group in the general population, citing World Health Organization figures.

Ward is the third missionary killed in the last two weeks.

On Aug. 31, Jose Daniel Encarnacion Montero, 20, of the Dominican Republic, was killed in Cali, Colombia, when he was hit by a stray bullet. Encarnacion was with three other missionaries when he was killed, but they weren’t harmed.

On Aug. 25, Jason Wiberg, 19, of Roy, Utah, died after being hit by a car while on bicycle in Kuching, Malaysia. Wiberg had been on mission since October 2012.


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