The victims of Pan Am 103

A plane crash is a nightmare of your worst expectations coming true.....we all fear crashing with our planes and the fear is both plausible and could happen to all of us at any time - and we cannot do a thing to rescue ourselves once the plane is heading for touchdown. We are helpless victims of fate, unable to act in defense of ourselves. That is why the deaths of 270 people is such terrible news: it could have been us or our families. And even if we hate to admit it: we are happy it wasn't us or our families. To learn from the crash of Pan Am 103 we need to learn about the victims: who were they and why must they and their horrible fate be kept in remembrance?

Overview and quick-menu - press to go to section:
  • Death toll and causes
  • Survival chances 
  • Lockerbie - a town in pain 
  • Who are the victims? 
  • Lucky passengers 
  • Syracuse Tragedy 
  • UK Families Flight 103 
  • US victim´s committees 
  • Paying the damage 
  • Individual stories 
  • Arlington and Lockerbie Memorial sites 
  • More victims

  •  Victim hit score

    They say flying is the safest way to travel. Well this is quite true. Flying doesn't kill you. Crashing does. Logically, it is not safe to crash. The AAIB made a very laconic statement in its technical report about the chance to survive the crash of Pan Am 103: The crash was simply not survivable. 243 passengers killed. 16 crew members. 11 residents of Lockerbie. A total hit score of 270 persons.

    Not every body aboard the plane died from the explosion. 8 passengers did. Or maybe they didn't die from the explosion after all. Maybe they were sucked into engine 3 and vaporated. We simply don't know. The 8 bodies are missing and not accounted for. They were all sitting in rows 23 to 28 in the economy section, just above the blast section.

    2 other bodies from aboard the aircraft are not accounted for. 7 Lockerbie residents are missing. They were residents of the Sherwood Crescent area, and they probably became vaporated, when the fuel-loaded wing and center section of the aircraft crashed and exploded.

    Cause of death

    Post mortem pathological examinations of other victims aboard the plane indicated no in-flight fire or other indications of shrapnells from any explosion. No evidence unequivocally indicated any passengers or crew members had been killed or injured from any explosive blast.So what killed them ?

    The majority of the people aboard Pan Am 103 died as a result of severe multiple injuries at different stages. In plain english this means they were literally crushed, hit, ripped apart and cut to death. People were killed as the aircraft disintegrated, as it hit ground, and some had been thrown from the aircraft fuselage during integration and at impact.

    Most bodies fell in clusters. About 60 victims fell near Lockerbies famous golf course at the towns east end. About 50 bodies landed together with the fuselage in Ellen Ramsdens garden.

    Some bodies were found in trees, some inside fragments of the plane, others lying spread-eagled in the mud. Death had reached them quick but violent. Some of the people aboard the aircraft have been conscious about their final fate all the way down.For some of them the fall took almost 2 minutes - the lack of oxygene in the uppe spheres might have let people meet death unconsciously, some might have regained consciousness when falling further down into oxygene-rich atmosphere. 2 bodies could not be identified. 658 bags of human remains are still to be identified.

    Only one woman survived the accident. But not for long. Scottish rescue workers found a woman on the ground with a pulse.
    But the pulse was gone 10 minutes later. The woman was never conscious, never lived to tell about her experience during those horrible minutes before the crash.


    Two passengers aboard Flight 103 may have survived the fall from thirtyone thousand feet, according to a pathologist who testified before a fatal accident inquiry in Dumfries, Scotland. "The chances are that, even if they had survived, they would have been deeply unconscious after sustaining their injuries," said Dr. Anthony Bussuttil.
    Bussuttil is a professor of forensic medicine at Edinburgh University who testified before the inquiry on October 17, 1990. Bussuttil told investigators that eight pathologists grouped the victims into three categories:

    1) the majority of passengers who most likely died immediately from injuries;

    2) a smaller number with less-severe injuries but whose vital organs were extensively damaged, causing immediate death or unconsciousness;

    3) and two passengers with less-severe injuries.

    "It is possible that this third group may have survived for a short time," Bussuttil said.
    When asked if one or both might have survived given the "best qualified medical team possible," Bussuttil replied: "There is a possibility that, if resuscitation was available immediately with access to hospital facilities, there could have been survival." Bussuttil pointed out that, given the plane's altitude when it exploded, the victims' 2-1/2-minute free fall would have reached speeds of about 120 miles per hour. "Some victims may have fallen faster because they were attached to heavy parts of the aircraft," he explained. "Some may have fallen more slowly because they were with parts of the aircraft which fluttered down."

  •  Report of Pan Am 103 autopsy in American Science Journal
  • Other immediate injuries

    Some Lockerbie citizens were injured as a direct result of the crash. 2 serious injuries and 3 with minor injuries, due to one of the falling engines from the plane, and due to the fire, after impact-explosions. Of course, many more people obviously must have suffered psychical shocks as the aircraft crashed in the middle of their small city. Someone may still be suffering from nightmares, flight-phobia or other mental problems this very day....
  •  The Lockerbie Experience: a town in pain
  • Carra Brown lost 11 neighbours in Lockerbie
  • Relatives and friends of Pan Am 103-victims still suffer from stress disorders and depressions today. But right after the crash no one was there to offer professional disaster councelling for the relatives.

  • Two days after the crash: relatives in state of schock
  • Lasting pain: what the 103-relatives will never forget
  • Relatives invited to watch video-sequence of crash 1990
  • NEW: Interview with103-relative Susan Cohen about coping with death and terrorism 
  • Who are the victims ?

    11 people from Lockerbie were killed as a direct result of the crash.
    The victims of Lockerbie

    The crew of Pan Am 103 was killed as well.
    The crew of Pan Am 103

    Pan Am keeps records of their passenger lists years back, on microfilm archieves. Passenger-lists are supposed to be public, as soon as the plane has landed, and passengers loaded off.
    Passenger List from Pan Am 103
    Pan Am Flight 103 passenger positions

    Pan Am 103 had some more or less famous passengers. Here is a selective list of some of them:

    Some passengers even got off the plane, before it took off for the very last time. Such was Pik Botha, former South African Foreign Minister a very lucky person....or maybe he knew something, that the rest of Pan Am 103's unfornunate passengers weren't supposed to know ? (Mr. Gerrit Pretorius, Mr. Botha`s private secretary at the time, confirmed that the South African delegation had been booked on fligth Pan-Am 103, but said it had arrived at Heathrow Airport an hour early and the South African Embassy had arranged a different flight to New York)
    Indian citizen Jaswant Basuta was another lucky passenger - notorious for missing his flights, he missed even this one while drinking beer with his brother-in-law at the airport. Thus he never made it to Pan Am 103 - but his luggage did, and after the crash he was questioned and withheld by British police as a suspect....

    Another evident suspect and lucky passenger from Pan Am 103 was a certain mr. Weinacker who never made it to the gate of Pan Am 103 in London, although his luggage did - and his suitcase, a beige softsided Samsonite bag, was loaded into the container, where the alleged explosion had took place, i.e. container AVE 4041 PA. For a couple of days mr. Weinacker must have felt like Fhima and Megrahi....but eventually police let go of him.

    Another lucky guy was mr. Steve Green, Assistant, Office Intelligence DEA. Mr Steve Green has been seen, on the tarmac, watching the take-off of the doomed plane Pan-Am 103 at London Airport Heathrow. Together with him, Oliver Revell junior, survived Pan Am 103 by a lucky strike of incredible coincidences. Oliver Revell junior is the son of Mr. Oliver Buck Revell,  member of the FBI ...and one of the American head investigators in the Lockerbie case!

    Finally did mr. John McCarty, U.S. Ambassador, Cyprus, change his mind about boarding Pan Am flight 103. He lived to tell about it, while others didn't.

  • Deborah Engelman - living to tell about Pan Am 103
  • "I was booked on Pan Am 103 - and survived!"
  • More stories about lucky survivors from Pan Am 103

  • The Tragedy of Syracuse University

    The average age for victims was below 35 -  Many young people were among the victims of Pan Am 103, mostly students and army volunteers coming home to the USA for christmas holiday. Syracuse University in Syracuse, USA, took the worst hit. 35 students from Syracuse University were passengers aboard the doomed aircraft Pan Am 103, all killed.

    With news update, feature articles, pictures, links and legal information about the 35 Syracuse students victims, put up on the web by Syracuse law students in 1998/9. This is the site to go, if you are looking for recent updates and in-dept coverage of Syracuse Universities relation with Lockerbie and Pan Am 103.

    In memory of victims - relatives battle for remembrance and justice

    There have been many crashes with civil airplanes for more than 50 years. Somehow the crash of PA 103 and the death of 270 innocent people remains as the worst crash ever in the minds of many people. The victims are all dead, but their voices have not calmed: relatives and friends have now for 10 years continuously raised the issue of Pan Am 103 and they tell the world: "We must never forget the victims of Pan Am 103 and their fate. "

    That's why Jim Swire, who lost his daughter 21.12.1988 in that crash, formed the Lockerbie Victim Committee in order to represent the views and anger of those ever unable to speak up. The commite was formed on April 1st 1989 at Russel Square Hotel, not far from the British Museum. It is named: UK Families Flight 103 . Apart from a group in the USA, this is the biggest and most influental group of victim's relatives and friends to continuously lobby the world for an answer. The leader of the group is dr. James Swire, father of Fiona Swire, who was killed in the crash.
    Apart from a group in the USA, this is the biggest and most influental group of victim's relatives and friends to continuously lobby the world for an answer. The leader of the group is dr. James Swire, father of Fiona Swire, who was killed in the crash.

  • Read more about the UK-group and dr. Jim Swire

  • In the USA there are no less than 4 groups of relatives lobbying for the victims of Pan Am 103. Occasionally they grab at each others throats - all gropus want justice for Pan Am 103, but they each have their very own opinion of exactly how this justice can be brought about...
    A comprehensive (and critical!) list of the present 4 victim's committees in the USA

    This is the biggest American Victim Support Group for the crash of Pan Am 103:

                        Victims of Pan Am Flight 103
                                  PO Box 31
                                  Joppa, MD 21085
                          phone (201) 391-0823

  •  VOPAF 103-president sending message on the internet
  • NEW:  Report from latest VOPAF103-meeting in Albany, N.Y., 16-18. October 1998
  • Joint venture in early 1990: VOPAF 103 and UK Fam. 103 together in appeal
  • Early days: relatives with "Iran killed them!"-buttons in Washington
  • Early days: Relatives annoyed with lame US response
  •  Read how some of the victim's families in USA reacted to the TWA 800-crash 1996
  •  Full text of US court verdict Paul Hudson vs. the 2 Libyans 26/11/1996
  •  Aphrodite Tsairis writes about her efforts to find justice.
  •  Rosemary Wolfe, president of Justice for Pan Am 103
  • US relatives join the National Victims Center 1989
  •  Victim's relatives disagree on campaign
  • Johanna Hesami, v.c. of Families of Pan AM 103, disagreeing with VOPAF 103 in 1990
  •  Justice for Pan Am 103 tries to stop Libyans buying visa-checks in the USA
  • NEW: US relatives in NPR interview 24/08/1998

  • Paying the damage and the loss: compensation for Pan Am 103

    Besides remaining glued to the issues of the victims, their death and airplane security, the victim's committes have  themselves in the legal battle for compensation. According to the Warzaw Agreement of International Flight Insurance, the highest fare of compensation for the death of a passenger is 57000 USD. But when there is prooof of culpability, the relatives can raise new cases for higher compensation against airlines by using civil legislation. Members of the families and friend of victims from UK and from USA tried to make a legal claim for compensation from Pan Am some years ago:

    About the compensation-suit against Pan Am:

  • Angry victims drag Pan Am to court
  • The LVC accepts Pan Am's compensation offer
  • The families of three passengers brought proceedings against Pan Am in New York in 1992 leading to a 13 week trial. The jury returned a special verdict finding Pan Am guilty of wilful misconduct in disobeying US government directives requiring the inspection of unaccompanied baggage.
    Pan Am were said to have failed to institute the appropriate procedures at Frankfurt. The jury awarded damages to the three families totalling US $19,960,000. The cases of 207 other passengers will follow this decision.  Pan Am appealed the judgement of the New York District Court, challenging both the jury's finding of liability and the amount of damages awarded. Pan Am's appeal attempted to deal with the evidence relating to the alleged non-compliance with the regulations, and argued that any non-conformities were due to innocent mistakes.
    The court held that the evidence overwhelmingly supported the jury's conclusion that, but for Pan Am's wholly inadequate terrorist prevention techniques and deliberate indifference, the bombing and senseless loss of life would not have occurred. The awards, however, were altered to disallow damages for loss of parents' care and guidance where the plaintiff child was not a minor.  The Lockerbie incident struck a deep chord in the US, standing as a reminder of collective vulnerability to wanton terrorist acts. The attack also contributed to the demise of Pan Am, one of the world's first airlines.

    This decision paved the way for determination of the balance of passenger claims.

  • Wife of American victim files lawsuit aganist Pan Am(original court text)
  • ...and she wins that lawsuit and gets millions of US$....
  • Lawyer Lee Kreindler files 20-million USD-lawsuit against Fhima and Megrahi
  • ....and the appeal verdict regarding Libya's claim to immunity from civil lawsuit
  • The American relatives are now starting to find other ways to seek even more compensation money from elsewhere. Thus they use American civil legislation to file a lawsuit against Libya, whom they believe is guilty of putting the bomb on Pan Am 103. How can they do that, when Fhima and Megrahi never have been tried in the US ?

    Well, think back to the O.J.Simpson case.....he was filed not guilty in a criminal court, but guilty in a civil court, having to pay compensation even if he was aquitted by the criminal court. This can only happen in a place like the USA, the only country in the world with such a system.

    However, in order to get their claims against Libya tried by a jury, the evidence against Libya will not be made public by both the criminal courts in the US as well as the British/Scottish police. They refused to provide the criminal evidence to the American Victim's commitees for trial. So until further, there can be no just civil trial against Libya in the USA to the regret of the many American relatives.  Lawyer Lee Kreindler invited the relatives of the British and Scottish victims to join him in the USA for such a trial, but surprisingly they refused.

  • Why British relatives refuse to join a civil trial against Libya in the USA

  • Individual stories

    I am looking for anyone providing inside stories of victims and their fate. Please send your contributions to this adress, thank you !

    Graveyards and Memorial Sites

    At the crash sites in Lockerbie, Scotland and in the graveyard outside Lockerbie, there are some historical monuments and victim-shrines. In one of them at the Lockerbie Graveyard, you can find a public shrine with books of the lives of every victim killed in the crash, pictures of victimes, and a book to sign your comment or read what other people have written in condolence to the victims.
  • US kin visiting Lockerbie crash site
  • There is a memorial place at Arlington Churchyard/Cemetary in USA, which has been built up by 270 stones, directly imported from Lockerbie, Scotland.

  • The Lockerbie Memorial Place at Arlington
  • Some relatives went for a boycot of the ceremony in 1995
  • On 21st of December 1993, senator Edward Kennedy made a speech there, and on December 21st 1995, president William Clinton held a speech there to further his re-election.
    Not all US relatives are happy about their governments and the lack of effort and enthusiasm for the cause of Pan Am 103. Much talk, but few actions, is what the relatives say the Clinton administration is doing.

  • Intensity of grief and anger
  • 10 year anniversary commemoration events 21/12/1998

  • Arlington, Lockerbie and Westminster Abbey etc.

    These are victims, too !!!

    Not only direct victims of the Lockerbie Incident and their families have and are suffering. Other people are affected, more or less remotely, by actions and incidents following the criminal and political trail of the crash of Pan Am 103. Whether you like it or not - they are victims, too ! You might find this provocative, but as long as no one has been found guilty of the crime in front of a court of law, suspects are supposed to be innocent....that is, if they are not unfortunate and born as Libyans...

    Human rights say, that any accused person is innocent until procen guilty . In the legal system of the UN, people are usually innocent until proven Libyan !!! (or Irish or Iraqi or Sudanese or muslim or black or jewish or....)

    Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi

    Some say this Libyan citizen is guilty. He has never been proved to be guilty. He remains innocent until proven guilty. But he has suffered imprisonment, psychical harrasment, and his legal rights have been violated. His family suffers.He cannot travel outside Libya on holiday. He is one of the alleged culprits, that the governments of USA and UK say is responsible for placing a bomb aboard Pan Am 103. As things are going right now, he seems just to be another rival to the list of scapegoats.

    Lamen Khalifa Fhima

    Some say this Libyan citizen is guilty. He has never been proved to be guilty. He remains innocent until proven guilty. But he has suffered imprisonment, psychical harrasment, and his legal rights have been violated. His family suffers.He cannot travel outside Libya on holiday. He is one of the alleged culprits, that the governments of USA and UK say is responsible for placing a bomb aboard Pan Am 103. As things are going right now, he seems just to be another rival to the list of scapegoats.

    Muammar Abu Meniar Al-Qadhafi

    This is the man, that continously is beeing blamed as the master mind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103. But not one person has laid forward any proof. We can go on blaming everybody from the Pope to Mother Teresa for having done the crime...but without proof, all allegations are pure fantasies. One might like Qadhafi or dislike him. But he has rights, too. His human rights are at this minute beeing violated by the accusations of the USA and the UK. If YOU were in his shoes...wouldn't you suffer, too ? On how many innocent people will the blame be put, until the USA and the UK are satisfied and content ?

    Libyan citizens, 100 % not involved in the Lockerbie Incident, such as Libyan children, elderly and other weak Libyan citizens are dying today because of UN-sanctions against Libya since 1992. They are forced to travel with ship, since all air-traffic in and out of Libya is forbidden. Some Libyans actually don't make it travelling through the desert at 40 degrees celsius. They die of heart failure.

    Libyans die from not beeing transferred by aircraft for surgery in emergency situations. Libyans die in domestic flight air-crashes, because of lack of spare parts. Libyans and other Arabs residing in USA or UKare beeing harrassed for no apperate reason.Libyan national economy is rolling downwards. I could go on and on....
    Read the UN-report on the impact of the UN-sanctions against Libya
    More about Libya, UN-sanctions and the crash of pan Am 103 

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