Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board, many of them Americans, and 11 others on the ground, was later determined to have been a terrorist attack. Two Libyan intelligence agents were accused of planting the bomb, and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was accused of harboring them, resulting in U.N.-imposed sanctions. Gadhafi finally turned the suspects over to Scottish authorities this year and a trial is set to begin in February. An excerpt from The Post of Dec. 22, 1988:
By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
LOCKERBIE, Scotland, Dec. 22 (Thursday) --
APan American jumbo jet bound from London to New York crashed into this Scottish town last night, apparently killing all persons aboard.
The Boeing 747 slammed into a gasoline station and a row of houses in this small town of 2,500 residents, 15 miles north of the English border, igniting a fireball that rose up to 300 feet into the sky.
A police official in the nearby town of Dumfries reported that at least 15 people had been killed on the ground. Local hospitals said 12 seriously burned residents had been rushed in for treatment.
There was no immediate indication of what caused the crash, which took place in clear weather less than an hour's flight time from London.
"There were no mayday signals," a Pan Am vice president, Jeff Kriendler, told reporters in New York last night. The plane had left London's Heathrow Airport at 6:25 p.m. local time (1:25 p.m. EST), and the last contact from the crew was at 7:15 p.m., when the plane was cruising at 31,000 feet, Kriendler said. He added that it was "precisely on course" when it disappeared from radar screens.
As rescue teams reached the crash scene, about 275 miles northwest of London, there were indications of an explosion aboard the plane. The jet's cabin door was found 10 miles from the rest of the cockpit, while an engine was found on a highway outside town. At least one witness said the plane may have been on fire before it hit the ground.
The plane, Pan Am Flight 103, "disappeared from radar contact at 7:15 p.m.," British Department of Transport spokesman Mike Vertigans said in a telephone interview. Kriendler gave the time the plane hit the ground as 7:22 p.m. Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said Scottish air controllers had talked to the crew minutes before the crash and received no indication of any problem.
British aviation officials denied reports that the 747 may have hit another plane.
Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rifkin told United Press International, "The aircraft clearly experienced some form of explosion, which has resulted in many parts of the aircraft falling in many different locations -- that we know. But what might have caused that to happen, I'm sorry, I could not even speculate."
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