On this day in history : 21st December 1988 – A Pan American jumbo jet is blown out of the sky by a terrorist bomb – crashing onto the town of Lockerbie in Scotland…. All 259 passengers and crew are killed and 11 people on the ground….

The jumbo jet – named N739PA, the Clipper Maid of the Seas – at Frankfurt International Airport in 1986 – Kambui CC BY 2.0

Pan Am flight 103 was flying transatlantic from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York…. On board were 248 passengers and 11 crew…. The Boeing 747 left London Heathrow at around 6pm bound for New York JFK Airport….it exploded 38 minutes after takeoff….

Debris from the aircraft scattered over 845 square miles….many of the larger sections hitting residential areas of Lockerbie…. Eleven people died in one street, Sherwood Crescent…. A wing section hit No.13 at a speed of more than 500mph….the house exploded and was completely destroyed – leaving a 47m crater…. The bodies of occupants Dora and Maurice Henry were never found….

Several other nearby houses were also destroyed (and a further 21 later had to be demolished)…. Four family members at No.15 Sherwood Crescent were killed, Jack and Rosalind Somerville and their two children, Paul (13) and Lyndsey (10) – the bodies of the children were never found…. At No.16, Kathleen and Thomas Flannigan were killed – along with their 10-year-old daughter, Joanne…. Their 14-year-old son, Steven, witnessed the fireball that engulfed his home from a garage, where he was mending his sister’s bicycle…. Two other residents of Sherwood Crescent also died….elderly widows Mary Lancaster and Joan Murray….

The fireball rose above the houses and moved towards the A74 – a dual carriageway….cars were scorched and set on fire…. Initially people thought the nearby Chapelcross nuclear power station had gone into meltdown…. The impact of the explosion reached 1.6 on the Richter scale….

Remains of the forward section of the aircraft on Tundergarth Hill, Lockerbie – Image : Air Accident Investigation Branch – OGL 2

Two men, accused of being Libyan intelligence agents, were eventually charged with the bombing…. Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was jailed for life in January 2001…. His alleged accomplice, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was found not guilty…. In August 2009 Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds – as he was suffering from prostate cancer and had been given just a few months to live…. He returned to Libya and lived for another three years – dying in May 2012….

He was the only person to have been convicted – and always claimed his innocence…. Some, even members of the victims’ families doubted whether he was guilty – the thought being he could never have organised the bombing alone…. Many questions still remain unanswered….

Lockerbie Disaster Memorial at Lockerbie Cemetery – StaraBlazkova via Wikimedia

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