• December 21, 1988 : Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Scotland

    December 21, 1988 : Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Scotland
    On this day in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members aboard, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground. A bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated in the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The disaster, which became the subject of Britain's largest criminal investigation, was believed to be an attack against the United States. One hundred eighty nine of the victims were American.

    Islamic terrorists were accused of planting the bomb on the plane while it was at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Authorities suspected the attack was in retaliation for either the 1986 U.S. air strikes against Libya, in which leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's young daughter was killed along with dozens of other people, or a 1988 incident, in which the U.S. mistakenly shot down an Iran Air commercial flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people.

    Sixteen days before the explosion over Lockerbie, the U.S. embassy in Helsinki, Finland, received a call warning that a bomb would be placed on a Pan Am flight out of Frankfurt. There is controversy over how seriously the U.S. took the threat and whether travelers should have been alerted, but officials later said that the connection between the call and the bomb was coincidental.

    In 1991, following a joint investigation by the British authorities and the F.B.I., Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were indicted for murder; however, Libya refused to hand over the suspects to the U.S. Finally, in 1999, in an effort to ease United Nations sanctions against his country, Qaddafi agreed to turn over the two men to Scotland for trial in the Netherlands using Scottish law and prosecutors. In early 2001, al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison and Fhimah was acquitted.

    In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing, but didn't express remorse. The U.N. and U.S. lifted sanctions against Libya and Libya agreed to pay each victim's family approximately $8 million in restitution. In 2004, Libya's prime minister said that the deal was the "price for peace," implying that his country only took responsibility to get the sanctions lifted, a statement that infuriated the victims' families. Pan Am Airlines, which went bankrupt three years after the bombing, sued Libya and later received a $30 million settlement.

    The reason this is important as Dead Steve Morell was suppose to be on that flight:

    From http://home.roadrunner.com/~bmorrell/STEVE/stevestories.html

    Due to his little "rock climbing" mishap, while he was in the hospital, Steve missed his flight home for Christmas. That flight turned out to be Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. If it hadn't been for his illegal BASE jumping, he would have died in 1988, and we would not have had him with us for eight more years. (As soon as I heard about Pan Am Flight 103, as usual my Steve ESP clicked in and I called his mother and learned, and as usual, that Steve had literally dodged another bullet.) Steve told me later that he thought he could have survived the disaster because he always had his parachute as carry-on luggage, and if he had had enough time, he could have bailed out. However, having just spent eighteen months in Saudi and being the only survivor MIGHT have cast some suspicion him. He was such an optimist, I always thought a fitting epitaph for his tombstone would be, "This is only a temporary setback."
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