Wounded basketball player: Belgium must help attack victims

AALST, Belgium (AP) A former basketball player who was badly wounded in the suicide bomb attack on Brussels airport a year ago is urging the Belgian government to live up to its pledge to help attack victims.

''I'm really perplexed at how long this has taken, especially since promises were made'' just after the March 22 attacks on the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people, Sebastien Bellin said Thursday. ''Belgian citizens pay an incredible amount in taxes to have incredible health care ... but when we've been paying for years and years, and when we finally need it, help's not there.''

Bellin, who suffered severe leg and hip injuries, wears a cast on his left leg and now walks with a limp. The 38-year-old resident of Battle Creek, Michigan, was framed in one of the iconic images from the bombings, lying bloodied on the floor of the departure terminal at Brussels airport.

More than 300 people were wounded in the Brussels attacks, but around 900 people claim to have been direct or indirect victims and are seeking compensation, Belgian justice officials say.

Bellin, who once played basketball at Oakland University Michigan and for the Belgian national team, said he has shared his concerns recently with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

A new law was passed quickly after the attacks but it has still not entered force, leaving just a few victims, mostly spouses of those killed, able to claim about 5,000 euros ($5,400) in compensation under the old law. As they struggle to recover, some are overwhelmed by the additional battles over insurance claims and trying to keep families together or businesses alive.

Bellin wants to raise awareness about those suffering in silence.

''I've had enough of talking. Now is the time to be really concrete,'' the 6-foot-9 (205-centimeter) former player said in a stadium in Aalst, near Brussels, where he once graced the court. ''A year's a long time to be on pause.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.