Times Union, Albany, USA
TUESDAY, October 2, 1990
FAMILIES SEE RADAR TRACK OF FLIGHT 103'S LAST MOMENTSBy Edith M. Lederer Associated Press
American and British relatives watched a video recording Monday of the last radar blips of Pan Am Flight 103, in which their loved ones were killed by a terrorist bomb.
"It was like watching them being killed," one said.
The start of the first public inquiry concentrated on events of Dec. 21, 1988, when the Boeing 747 exploded over the nearby town of Lockerbie, claiming 270 lives.
As family members watched video screens in the courtroom, air traffic controller Alan Topp traced the final moments of the square blips on a green radar screen that indicated Flight 103 until the moment the plane exploded.
A square blip with a cross, from radar on the plane's flight deck, vanished immediately, leaving an empty square, designating ground radar readings.
This single square gradually multiplied as the radar picked up separate pieces of the disintegrating aircraft falling to earth 31,000 feet below.
Topp, 54, who was at the Prestwick, Scotland, air traffic control center, described frantic efforts to contact the plane.
"I came to the conclusion the clipper was lost when I didn't get through and saw this mess" on the screen, he said.
Light debris from the aircraft showed as blips on the radar screen drifting across the north of England and southern Scotland for the next 20 to 30 minutes, Topp said.
The fuel-laden wing section and part of the fuselage crashed in Lockerbie less than a minute after the explosion, with a force equivalent to an earthquake of 1.3 on the Richter scale, said Terence Turbitt, a geophysicist with the British Geological Survey.
George Williams of Joppatowne, Md., whose only son, Geordie, a 24- year-old Army lieutenant, died in the crash, said a lump came to his throat.
"To see the actual moment when my son lost his life was tough," he said.
Said Pamela Dix of Dublin, Ireland, whose brother Peter, 35, died, "It was like watching them being killed."
"This is just the start. There's worse to come," said Jean Flick of Coventry, whose son Clayton and his fiance were on the plane.
Like all the relatives, Flick said, she wants the fatal accident inquiry to reveal "the truth" about the crash.
"And those that haven't done their jobs right must be made accountable," she said.
Williams was tougher: "I want people from Pan Am jailed, people from the government censured and fired that were involved in the cover-up, and I want the criminals executed."
The inquiry will examine airport security but will not take evidence on the question of criminal responsibility for the bombing.