The final moments of Pan Am Flight 103

IT WAS almost 20 years ago that an explosion blew the doomed Pan Am Flight 103 out of the sky above the small town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on board and a further 11 on the ground.

Now the terrifying moment the jumbo jet was blasted apart has been recreated by a television channel to mark the anniversary of the atrocity.

The chilling footage also recaptures the calm inside the aircraft just before the devastating explosion.

The film, to be shown on the National Geographic channel tonight, uses computer-generated images to recreate the impact of the New York-bound jet after it plunged in flames on to Lockerbie, the steeple clearly visible among the flames.

Mixed with television news footage from the disaster and featuring eyewitness accounts, it is the first time the final moments of the jet have been pieced together in such graphic detail.

The one-hour special, made to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 21 December, 1988 tragedy, is likely to bring back horrific memories for Lockerbie residents.

Marjory McQueen, a former councillor in the town, has seen the trailer for the documentary but will not be watching tonight.

She said: "We see this from the human point of view; what we went through and witnessed that night is something you can't erase. You can't get over it but you do get through it. That's right for those of us who were there."

The documentary begins with an image of the fireball from the jet's wings as it slams into Sherwood Crescent, where 11 residents died. It also shows the aircraft in flight, with scenes from inside the cabin as the plane climbs to its cruising altitude. Actors playing FBI agents, Scottish police officers and air accident investigators are then seen combing the countryside for wreckage. Interviews with senior American intelligence agents are also featured.

Michael Gordon, a former police officer in Lockerbie, tells how he looked on helplessly from his house as the jumbo jet plummeted 31,000ft to the ground.

Speaking to the media for the first time about the tragedy, the ex-Dumfries and Galloway officer said: "I heard this noise above the wind. It sounded like thunder and it was getting louder and louder. It was similar to the noise of a jet fighter.

"As I looked out my window, I could see debris falling from the sky. Then I saw a long, black shape with a fire stream heading towards Lockerbie.

"I saw dark objects falling from the sky. When the plane crashed, I could hear the tiles on the roof of my house lifting."

Mr Gordon added: "When the plane hit, it was the most horrendous explosion. The streets, lawns and houses were on fire and it was difficult to move without my shoes and trousers burning. Then I found the cockpit. It was like the jet's nose had just been chopped off."

In the documentary, experts tell how they helped to convict Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, 56, for the atrocity.

The Libyan, who is terminally ill with cancer, recently failed in a bid to be released on compassionate grounds from Greenock jail, where he is serving a life sentence.

Back to the top of the page