Pan Am 103 History
At 6:25 p.m. on Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 departed London’s Heathrow Airport, bound for John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. The flight was carrying 16 crew members and 243 passengers, including 35 students who had just completed a semester of study abroad in London or Florence, Italy, through Syracuse University’s Division of International Programs Abroad.
One half-hour later, at 7:03 p.m. as the Boeing 747—named Clipper Maid of the Seas—leveled off at 31,000 feet, just north of the England-Scotland border, an explosion blew a basketball-sized hole in the fuselage. Over the next several minutes, the plane broke apart and plummeted to the ground.
All 259 men, women and children on the plane were killed, along with 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, where the fuselage landed, causing a massive explosion.
Before long the world would know that it was not mechanical failure or weather that brought down the plane, but a terrorist bomb – Semtex plastic explosive planted in a Toshiba radio-cassette recorder inside a Samsonite suitcase in the forward cargo hold.
After a three-year joint investigation by the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary in Scotland and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, arrest warrants were issued in 1991 for two Libyan nationals implicated in the bombing. The two were handed over by then-Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi after eight years of United Nations sanctions and negotiations.
The Pan Am 103 bombing trial began at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands on May 3, 2000. On Jan. 31, 2001, Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of murder, the only person ever to be convicted in the bombing. He was jailed in Scotland for more than eight years before being released on compassionate grounds in August 2009. He died of prostate cancer in 2012.
In 2003, Gaddafi admitted Libya’s responsibility for the bombing and paid restitution to the families of the U.S. victims. – Syracuse University Website