Lockerbie trial is told of enormous fireball as jumbo jet exploded


Ripped apart by a bomb, Pan Am Flight 103 sent huge chunks of metal, a sea of burning fuel, bodies, suitcases and airline seats hurtling down in and around the small Scottish town of Lockerbie before crashing into houses, eyewitnesses told the second day of the trial of suspected Libyan terrorists yesterday.

Describing the scene as similar to film excerpts "of the atomic explosion at Hiroshima", they told of a "ferocious noise" and "a massive fireball mushroom" as the jet hit their town, throwing a hail of burning debris which stretched even as far as the North Sea. "We could feel the wind and the heat coming up towards us even though the burning was half a mile away," one eyewitness said.

The two Libyans accused of plotting the explosion and blowing up the jumbo jet over Lockerbie in December 1988, Mr Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi (48) and Mr Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah (44), appeared composed and relaxed as they listened to eyewitnesses, such as Mrs Jasmine Bell, of Lockerbie.

Narrowly missing being burnt alive as balls of fire swept through her garden, Mrs Bell was pulled inside to safety by her brother. She described how she led her son out of her house minutes later. Across the road and around her, houses and hedges were on fire and people were screaming.

"I stumbled on something and looked down. My son asked, `What's that, Mum?' I said, `It's just meat' and then it registered that it was not meat," she recalled in a shaking voice. As they listened to harrowing evidence on the second day of the trial some relatives appeared frozen almost to stone in their seats and one woman left saying she could bear it no longer.

"Phrases like fire falling from the sky, scenes like an atom bomb going off and the woman who spoke of meat were absolutely harrowing for us," one relative said.

Witness after witness at the Scottish trial, on Dutch territory, recalled seeing an enormous fireball as the plane exploded and finding bodies and bits of bodies lying in their gardens, on streets and in fields.

"It was unbelievable, unreal," said Mr Kevin Anderson (35), a plasterer, who heard "a screaming noise" and watched "something large" come down in a field opposite his home in a village close to Lockerbie. He rushed outside, shone a torch and saw that it was the cockpit of a jumbo jet. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I looked inside and saw the pilot, there was just wreckage and bodies, there was no sign of life."

Mr Ian Wood (37) looked out his window and watched "a large grey blue object" fall from the sky on the two houses in front of his house. "It was raining glass from shattered windows," he said, "and as I left my house I found a body on the street."