Pan Am Flight 103

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The remains of the nose section of Pan Am Flight 103, Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988.

Pam AM Flight 103 was a scheduled passenger flight from London, England to New York City on December 21, 1988 when a bomb placed in a suitcase by former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi exploded in a cargo compartment while the aircraft was over Lockerbie, Scotland. The deaths of 259 people in the aircraft and 11 residents on the ground shocked the world; the release in 2009 of Al Megrahi from prison by Scottish officials - and his hero's welcome in Libya - outraged both governments of the United States and Britain.

The flight

Flight 103, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet delivered to Pan American in February 1970, left Heathrow Airport in London at 6:25 P.M. local time. On board the aircraft were 259 passengers and crew; among them was Brent Carlsson, the United Nations' council on behalf of Namibia, who was on his way to New York to help formalize the independence of that nation; and 36 people from Syracuse University.

At about the time of the plane's disappearence from radar some 52 minutes after taking off, fire brigades and disaster personnel responded to a series of explosions in the town of Lockerbie as the remains of the aircraft hit two rows of houses and vehicles on a highway, which were still burning well into the night and following morning. Searchers would pull out the remains of eleven town residents in addition to the plane's passengers, which were part of a debris field which stretched over 80 miles from the main impact site.

The next day claims were made by several Islamic groups taking responsibility for downing Flight 103; in one, Iranian Prime Minister Hussein Musavi denied any connection his country had with the disaster after a pro-Iran group claimed responsibility. This was given credence when British Transport Minister Paul Channon was to tell Parliament that the radar controller at Prestwick had observed the aircraft's signature "split" into several targets at 31,000 feet just prior to completely disappearing, indicating a mid-air explosion.


References

  • Whitney, Craig R. "Jet Liner Carrying 258 to U.S. Crashes In Scottish Town," New York Times, December 22, 1988
  • Whitney, Craig R. "Jet Liner in Crash Blew Apart in the Air, Officials Report" New York Times, December 23, 1988
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