Two more LDS missionaries die in accidents

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A pair of Mormon missionaries died last week — bringing the total number of deaths of proselyting members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to 12 this year.

This week’s deaths came on consecutive days, one in in Mexico and the other in California.

On Wednesday, Daniel Kunz, 20, of Victor, Idaho, was electrocuted while on a mission in the gulf coast of Mexico in the city of Tampico. Kunz arrived just a month ago to begin his two-year mission. Kunz was walking back inside a building along a second-story ledge when he brushed against a live wire and fell to his death, his brother, Burke Kunz, told the Deseret News.

He is the second missionary to die from electrocution in Latin America this year.

On Thursday, Andrew Edward Page, 18, from Charlotte, N.C., died when he was struck by a car while on his bike in California. He started his mission in Arcadia, Calif., in August. Page is the third missionary to be fatally struck by a car while riding a bicycle.

“Every Church member is deeply saddened and grieves at the death of a missionary,” said Church spokesman Eric Hawkins in a statement.

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

Including Kunz and Page, eight of this year’s missionary deaths have been accidents. Four others have died from illnesses, such as an aneurysm, heart attack and tuberculosis meningitis. The only missionary who didn’t die in an accident or from health problems was Jose Daniel Encarnacion Montero, 20, of the Dominican Republic, who was struck by a stray bullet in August while on a mission in Colombia.

Eleven have been men, and one was a woman. Six have occurred in the United States, and six 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 80,000 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.

Church officials said they continue to do everything possible to keep missionaries safe, including training them to stay safe in cars and on bicycles. Missionaries always work in pairs and are given tips on which parts of their mission areas are more dangerous than others.

Burke Kunz told the Deseret News that his brother, Daniel Kunz, was a great sibling, uncle and son who was the youngest of 10 children. He loved sports, participating in cross-country, basketball, track and baseball, his brother said.

“He was our hero,” Burke Kunz told the Deseret News. “Even though he was the youngest, every one of us looked up to him and he was our example of what a Christ-like life should be.”

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