Jetliner Crashes With 258 : N.Y.-Bound 747 Falls on Scottish Village After Takeoff in London : Americans Returning for Yule
A Pan Am 747 bound for New York with 258 Christmastime travelers on board crashed in a small Scottish village today, sending up a towering ball of flame and raining burning debris on houses and cars.
The crash in the town of Lockerbie occurred about an hour after takeoff from London’s Heathrow Airport.
The casualty toll was not immediately known. Witnesses in the village said the jetliner hit a gas station adjoining some houses and there had been “a huge explosion” and a fireball that shot 300 feet into the air.
One witness described a “tremendous boom” and an “enormous ball of flame.” Others told the British Broadcasting Corp. that they heard a loud boom and that it felt like an earthquake had occurred when the plane crashed.
In New York, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen confirmed the crash and said some of the victims may have been Americans headed home for the holidays.
The Royal Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Petrivie in Scotland called the crash “a major tragedy.”
Local police said there were a substantial number of casualties, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. Local television said some people had been taken to hospitals, indicating there may have been survivors.
Lef Callaghan, spokesman at nearby Dumfries Hospital, said there were at least 12 casualties on the ground and that the hospital was sending medical teams to the site. Other reports said police had cordoned off a 10-mile area.
Lockerbie is a village about 10 miles northwest of Dumfries near the Scottish border.
“There is no speculation at this point in time as to the cause of the accident,” said Pan Am spokeswoman Pamela Hanlon in New York, who confirmed the crash and said that 243 people, three of them infants, and 15 crew members were aboard.
She said no passenger list was immediately available for Flight 103, which originated in Frankfurt, West Germany. She said it had been due to arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 9:19 p.m. New York time.
Pat Coffey, Royal Air Force public relations officer at the RAF Rescue Coordination Center in Edinburgh, reported that “an explosion on the ground at the town of Lockerbie was reported, and it coincided with the 747 disappearing from the radar screens.” She did not elaborate.
The flight left London’s Heathrow Airport bound for Kennedy Airport in New York at 7:25 p.m. local time and contact was lost at 8:19 p.m., Independent Television News quoted the Civil Aviation Authority as saying.