Tuesday, February 2, 2010

LDS Missionaries McKay Choy Burrows Of Highland, Utah And Jace Edward Davis Of Logandale, Nevada Die Of Accidental Natural Gas Asphyxiation In Romania

This post is intended to pull together all the significant media reports through February 1st, 2010 about the tragic death of two missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Romania. Elder McKay Choy Burrows, 20, of Highland, Utah, and Elder Jace Edwards Davis, 20, of Logandale, Nevada, died from accidental natural gas asphyxiation due to a gas leak in their apartment sometime during the night of Friday January 29th. I've added their names to my unofficial list of LDS missionaries who have died while serving their missions.


-- "Friends, family pay homage to fallen Mormon missionaries", Deseret News, February 1st
-- "Family and friends remember Utah missionary", KSL Channel 5, January 31st
-- "LDS missionary who died in Romania had 'enthusiasm for life,' family says", Salt Lake Tribune, February 1st
-- "Two LDS Missionaries Found Dead in Romania", KSTU Channel 13, January 31st.
-- "Mormon Missionaries Die in Romania", Mormon Matters, January 31st

YouTube video of KSL Channel 5 report embedded below:

Elders Burrows and Davis were assigned to the Romania Bucharest Mission, and were operating out of the city of Timisoara. The Romania Bucharest Mission was first organized on July 1st, 1993; there are 2,736 members and 19 congregations, 6 of which are located in Bucharest, according to LDS church statistics.

The LDS Church issued the following statement:

Elder McKay Choy Burrows, 20, from Highland, Utah and Elder Jace Edwards Davis, 20, from Logandale, Nevada, serving in the Romania Bucharest Mission passed away in their apartment sometime last night from apparent accidental natural gas asphyxiation, according to local authorities.

Their families have been notified by Church leaders.

We extend our love and sympathy to the elders' families and friends. We pray that the Spirit of the Lord will bring them peace and comfort at this difficult time.

There is some dispute in the Romanian press about the precise circumstances of the discovery of the tragedy. On this Mormon Matters post, the first two comments refer to accounts from two separate Romanian media sources. According to Zuiadevest in Timisoara where the missionaries died, a friend wanted to stop by and visit with them Saturday evening. He tried calling them and knocking on their door, and panicked when there was no response, so he knocked the door in. He found one of the missionaries in the bedroom and the other in the bathroom. Their neighbors are said to have heard strange sounds earlier in the morning. Most likely the one missionary who made it to the bathroom woke up coughing from lack of oxygen and tried to get out but didn’t make it far.

But according to NewsTimisoara, which is said to be more reliable, a friend who had a key to their apartment rang the bell for some time. He thought it was weird that they didn’t respond, and he tried to unlock the door, but another key was on the inside doorknob and so he couldn’t open it. Afraid, he called the fire department who entered the apartment through the window and found the two missionaries dead.

A Romanian police official -- who confirmed the missionaries' deaths -- said it is common for people in the country to heat their homes with natural gas stoves, which can leak if the pilot light goes out. Police are now investigating to find out exactly what happened. But in any event, no foul play is suspected.

According to Elder Burrows' family, McKay, who was eight months into his mission, had a great many talents and shared them with others, and the family expressed gratitude for the memory of him and his faith, sincerity, obedience and dedication as a missionary. In a written statement issued by Burrows' family, they wrote "Although McKay was only 20 years old when he left us, he accomplished so much good during his life...He was an exceptional student, graduating with honors from Lone Peak High School. He attended BYU on a scholarship. He was a highly accomplished musician, and mastered the piano with a concert pianist's skill to the delight, admiration and appreciation of all who had the good fortune to listen to him play."

As for Elder Davis, he was one of 10 valedictorians in Moapa Valley High School in Nevada, and played tennis and basketball for years before attending BYU-Idaho for a year and leaving to serve a mission. Spencer Winzenried, who knew Davis since seventh grade, said he was a genuine good guy. Fellow BYU-Idaho student Sera Caldwell said she remembers Davis well from family home evening. "(A friend) and I were just laughing today about fun times hanging out with him," Caldwell said. "It is very sad. At least now he can finish his mission up in heaven."

And Latter-day Saints believe the mission continues in heaven. In 1918, President Joseph F. Smith had a vision, in which he "beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead". They visit that portion of the spirit world known as "spirit prison" and preach the Gospel to its inhabitants as they show a willingness to receive it.

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