Sébastien Bellin, who features in a defining image of attacks, says from hospital: ‘I did not want my girls to grow up without a dad’
A man who was pictured lying bleeding on the floor of Zavantem airport in one of the defining images of the atrocities in Brussels has said thinking of his daughters helped him survive the ordeal.
In a tearful interview from his hospital bed on Thursday, Sébastien Bellin, a Brazilian-Belgian basketball player whose leg was said to be almost split in two, said: “I just didn’t want my girls to grow up without a dad.”
Bellin was hit by shrapnel in his hip and leg during the attacks on Tuesday, and while he was waiting for help he lost a lot of blood.
In the interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, he described the moments in which he feared he would die. “I just saw an explosion. The first explosion was near the pharmacy. I turned my head and saw all these people running.
“I blacked out for a little bit, I remember seeing two little kids to my right with their hands in the air. The whole time I was just trying to tell myself I’m going to make it.”
Bellin, whose father said his son spent an hour on the airport floor waiting for help, said it was only when he was in the ambulance that he thought he would be “here to fight another day”. “I was thinking about my wife and my kids,” Bellin said.
He said that during the traumatic events he started thinking of how he plays tennis with his elder daughter, who is seven. “I was like, ‘Man, I gotta get through this because she needs her coach’.”
While Bellin recounted his escape, friends and relatives still searching for loved ones more than 48 hours after the attacks were struggling to maintain hope.
The family of 51-year-old Fabienne Vansteenkiste, an airport baggage handler who, according to local media, had just finished her shift when two bombs exploded, said they were “realistic” about the situation.
According to the latest tally, 31 people lost their lives in Tuesday’s explosions at the airport and metro, and more than 300 were injured. The names of only three of the dead have been confirmed. Belgian media report that 150 people remain in hospital, with 61 in intensive care
Two Moroccan women were killed in the attacks according to reports citing the Moroccan embassy in Brussels. Another three from the north African country are said to to be missing and four injured. None have been named. Estimates of the number of Moroccans in Belgium are put at between 400,00 and 500,000.
Reflecting the international mix in Brussels, people from around 40 countries were killed or injured in the attacks, a factor that is complicating final identifications.
US state department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters there were so many US citizens either working in or visiting Belgium that it was impossible to give an accurate figure for the number unaccounted for. He said 12 US citizens had been injured and none were known to have been killed but stressed that the situation remains “very fluid”.
He said: “We try to go through that list to try and identify the whereabouts of folks but we’re constantly adding to that list as loved ones or family call in to say that they haven’t reached or been able to contact someone.”
A Utah man, one of three Mormon missionaries seriously injured in the attacks, is in a medically induced coma after lengthy surgery, and is expected to remain so for a few days. The family of 66-year-old Richard Norby said shrapnel caused severe trauma to his lower leg, and that he also suffered second-degree burns to his head and neck. The other two missionaries, Joseph Empey, 20, and Mason Wells, 19, have been awake and spoken to their families.
As Belgium marked a second day of national mourning, family, friends and colleagues continued to post messages on Facebook and Twitter in the desperate hope that a new lead might emerge.
Sabrina Esmael Fazal, 24, has not been seen since Tuesday and is thought to have taken the metro to university. “She must have taken the metro passing through Maelbeek at the moment of the disaster on her way to school,” states an appeal for help posted on Facebook. On Thursday morning family and friends were still searching for Loubna Lafkiri, a gym teacher, also believed to have taken the metro.
Not far from Maelbeek metro station is a notice appealing for any information about Johanna Atlegrim, aged 30, who is believed to have been on the metro during the attacks.
Family and friends are also searching for 61-year-old Polish national Janina Pansewicz.
Yves Ciyombo Cibuabua, 28, “was certainly at Maalbeek at the moment of the attacks”, his stepsister writes in a Facebook post. “We are still without news of him. We have tried everything.”
The family of Justin Shults, from Kentucky, who is missing with his wife Stephanie, had their hopes raised before being cruelly dashed.
His mother, Sheila Shell, said she was told on Wednesday by the US state department that the couple had been found in an unspecified hospital with unknown injuries.
But after another family member posted the news on Facebook, she received a call from a social worker in Belgium, who is with Stephanie Shults’ mother, saying the information was incorrect. A subsequent call to the office of Tennessee senator Bob Corker confirmed that the couple were not on any lists. Shell is now heading to Brussels to help in the search for the pair.
Justin Shults’ uncle, Dale Branam, told Wate.com: “I was so happy and excited on the way back from Knoxville and then to hear that [it was incorrect], it was like ripping my heart back out in my chest again.”