NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An American couple missing since the terrorist attack at the Brussels international airport were confirmed dead Saturday, according to statements from their employers.
Justin Shults, 30, a Gatlinburg, Tennessee native, and his wife Stephanie Shults, who grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, had not been seen since Tuesday.
Shults’ employer, Clarcor, said in a post on its website Saturday that he died in the bombing.
“We grieve with the family and continue to offer our support as they mourn this unimaginable loss,” the company wrote. Shults has been with the company, which makes filtration products, since 2012. He was a member of the global finance team and had lived with his wife in Brussels since 2014.
Mars, Incorporated, Stephanie Shults’ employer, wrote in a Facebook post Saturday evening that they learned from her family that she and her husband were both killed in the attack.
“We are mourning the loss of our colleague and friend. Our hearts and thoughts are with their families, and with all those who are suffering during this terrible time,” the Facebook post said.
The announcement brings to an end their family’s agonizing search for the couple.
Shults’ brother, Levi Sutton, wrote on social media Saturday that Shults had “traveled the world, leaving each destination better than when he arrived.”
“We found out today that cowards took my brother’s life just weeks after his 30th birthday,” Sutton wrote in a Twitter post. “He worked hard his whole life and achieved goals that most could only dream about.”
Relatives described them as generous and kind, who moved to Brussels for work and made the most of their European lives. They traveled to a new country every month and invited their American relatives to visit.
The couple graduated together from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management in 2009.
They were dropping Stephanie’s mother off at the airport. They waved goodbye to her just moments before the bombs went off, a family member said. Her mother, Carolyn Moore, was knocked to the ground by the explosion. She searched but could not find them in the chaos.
The suicide bombings at the airport and a city subway station killed 31 people, though the death toll could rise as more people are identified.
“Today, we are heartbroken to learn that Stephanie and Justin Shults are among the many lives cut short as a result of the barbaric terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium,” Kentucky congressman Andy Barr wrote in a statement. “We will never forget this daughter of Kentucky, the anguish felt by her family, nor the evil that took her from us.”