OGDEN, Utah (AP) – Ogden architect Brett Richards was killed as robbers held up a bus carrying 13 tourists on a Book of Mormon tour in Guatemala.
Richards, 52, was shot in the chest Wednesday and died en route to a hospital, Guatemala police said. The Guatemalan driver of the bus, Filiberto Roca, was wounded in the right ankle.
There were conflicting reports as to whether the tourists were all from Utah or some were from Idaho.
Richards’ cousin Ed Allen, who was on the tour, told The Salt Lake Tribune from his hotel Wednesday night that the five gunmen crashed their pickup into the front of the bus about 3 p.m. and forced it off the road.
The attackers fired through a window, hitting Richards, Allen said.
He said passengers were pulled from the bus, taken 200 yards into the jungle, tied up and put face-first on the ground, where they remained 45 minutes to an hour while the gunmen seized their valuables.
”It seemed like about a month,” Allen said. ”Most of us felt like we were going to be murdered.”
He said the organizer of the tour, Joseph Allen, was kicked in the face several times, but he seemed to be ”doing OK.”
Everyone was taken to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints center in the northern part of the country. Police rushed Richards by ambulance to a Retalhuleu hospital, but he died en route.
Family friend Mark DeCaria told the Standard-Examiner in Ogden that Richards and his family went to Guatemala quite often for expeditions because his father’s wife is from the country. His father, Maurice, was reportedly among the relatives on the bus.
”He’s in shock,” family member Bernie Allen told the Ogden paper.
Also on the tour were Brett Richards’ brother Reed Richards, a former chief deputy Utah attorney general, the wives of the three Richards and Ed Allen’s wife.
Brett and Becky Richards have five children, including a daughter who is serving a church mission, Bernie Allen said. Richards’ wife, Becky, is in Guatemala with him.
Richards’ work included the Dinosaur Park Museum and the 2nd District Courthouse in Ogden. He was a partner in Richards Bott Architects P.C., and also had served previously as a bishop, the lay leader of a Mormon congregation.
”We’re just all numb,” Bernie Allen said. ”He is just one of the neatest guys you could be around.”
Sergio Maldonado, president of the church’s Guatemala Retalhuleu Stake (like a parish), told the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City that the survivors of the attack were ”tired, scared and saddened.”
Maldonado said the tourists did not resist the demands of the bandits. ”Nobody put up a fight,” he said.
Maldonado said the police interviewed the surviving tourists, who were spending the night in Retalhuleu. A few of the tourists were taken to Maldonado’s home, and others were taken to the house of a local bishop where they phoned relatives in the United States before going to a hotel.
The group was going to try to leave Central America Thursday or Friday. They were originally scheduled to return Saturday. Meanwhile, Richards’ body was expected to be transported to Guatemala City ”as soon as possible,” President Maldonado said.
Book of Mormon Tours is operated out of Orem by Joseph L. Allen and his wife, Rhoda Allen.
Rhoda Allen said she had spoken only briefly with her husband and had very few details about what had happened. She said she planned to leave for Guatemala with another tour on Thursday.
The couple has operated tours for more than 30 years and has traveled for many years in Guatemala. Over the years, the tour groups have experienced only ”little” problems, such as when a woman’s purse was stolen. she told the News.
Many Mormons believe archaeological ruins in Central America were built by people described in the Book of Mormon, which church founder Joseph Smith claimed to have translated from a set of golden plates. Travel agencies arrange tours to visit these sites, focusing on how they might fit in with the scripture.