LONDON -- A Pan American World Airways jumbo jet carrying 258 passengers and crew from London to New York crashed in a huge fireball at a village just north of the Scottish border Wednesday evening, killing everyone on board and injuring at least a dozen on the ground, some of them critically.
Some residents of the village were still reported missing early today in Britain's worst air crash ever, and one of the worst in commercial aviation history.
Eyewitness Mike Carnahan described a "terrible explosion" as Flight 103 slammed into a gasoline station and several houses near the center of the village of Lockerbie, about 10 miles northeast of Dumfries.
"The whole sky lit up and it was actually raining liquid fire," Carnahan told British Broadcasting Corp. television. He said he was close enough to the crash that he later found a melted aluminum rivet from the doomed Boeing 747 embedded in his car.
'Just Beyond Description'
"I don't think there is any chance of survivors. The way it exploded was just beyond description," he said.
Pan Am officials later confirmed that there had been no survivors on the aircraft.
Dumfries Police Constable John Boyd said wreckage was scattered over an area 15 miles wide, and bodies were found in at least six different locations around Lockerbie.
The cause of the disaster was not immediately clear, although speculation centered on either structural failure or sabotage. The jet was built in 1970, the 15th 747 to be completed.
Several witnesses reported that the white and blue plane, named Maid of the Sea, was already on fire as it plummeted toward the earth. Some said they saw two fireballs in the sky, suggesting either an explosion or possibly a midair collision with a second aircraft.
However, the British Civil Aviation Authority ruled out the possibility of another plane being involved. No other aircraft was reported missing.
Minutes before the crash, the flight had been reported as proceeding normally at an altitude of 31,000 feet despite the presence of strong winds in the area. Pan Am officials said there had been no "Mayday" alert from the pilot.
"Bomb Fear in UK's Worst Air Disaster" was the headline on the London Times report of the tragedy today.
The flight originated in Frankfurt, West Germany, and a number of those on board apparently were American servicemen, headed home for Christmas.
Among others known to have been on the plane was Bernt Carlsson, the U.N. Commissioner for Namibia, and at least 36 students from a study program run by New York's Syracuse University. Carlsson, 50, was a Swede closely involved in efforts to negotiate independence for the South African-ruled territory.
In today's editions, the Washington Post quoted a State Department spokesman as saying six members of the department's Diplomatic Security Service, who were returning from Beirut, were aboard the jet. A State Department spokesman said he could not confirm the report.
In Detroit, Volkswagen of America said Wednesday night that VW's second-ranking U.S. official, James Fuller, and VW executive Lou Marengo were on board Flight 103. The automaker, a unit of Volkswagen AG, said that Fuller, vice president in charge of the U.S. Volkswagen unit, and Marengo, director of U.S. marketing, had boarded the flight in Frankfurt.
Also on board the Pan Am flight was John Mulroy, 59, director of international communications for the Associated Press; Mulroy's son, Sean, and daughter-in-law, Ingrid.
From the archives: At Least 258 Dead in Scotland Crash of N.Y.-Bound 747
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