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Sunday, January 31, 1999 Published at 06:07 GMT


Lockerbie pair 'could have survived'

Wreckage: 259 on board and 11 on the ground died

New research has suggested that two victims of the Lockerbie airliner bombing could have survived the six-mile fall to earth only to die of exposure later, a newspaper has reported.

The pathologist's report says that the unnamed pair of Americans were the only two of the 270 victims - passengers, crew and 11 victims on the ground - who stood any chance of surviving the fireball, the Sunday Times reports.

A terrorist bomb destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over the small Scottish town in December 1988 shortly after it had left London on its way to the USA.

In an article in the journal of the Medico-Legal Society, Anthony Busuttil, regius professor of forensic medicine at Edinburgh University, says that one of the victims, a man in his 40s, only suffered a broken leg, the newspaper reports.

Another, a young woman, was found with a fractured leg, broken ribs and a small amount of bleeding in the brain.

Both sets of injuries suggested that the pair could have had their fall from 31,000ft broken or slowed in some way. Prof Busuttil led the official team who examined the causes of death of the victims.

[ image: Explosion: Bodies were scattered over a large area]
Explosion: Bodies were scattered over a large area
Publishing his findings, he writes: "If the same two people had been found after a car accident, their chances of survival would not have been bad."

"The theory is that they parachuted in some way and somehow their fall was cushioned.

"The chances are that exposure and blood loss may have had some say in their death. The question was: could they have survived?"

The report reveals that some of the bodies of the 259 victims on the plane showed signs that their heartbeat could have continued either after the explosion or on impact with the ground. Tests were carried out on the bodies of 233 of the victims.

Previous findings

The findings appear to back up an earlier report contained in a book written by a helicopter squadron pilot.

[ image: Analysis: Experts have spent years looking at evidence]
Analysis: Experts have spent years looking at evidence
David McMullon wrote that during the search for bodies he found one victim who appeared to be clutching a handful of grass.

Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the crash and has led the campaign for the suspected Libyan terrorists responsible to be brought to trial, said questions had been raised over whether anyone could have survived.

"We have always been told by the authorities that none of the victims could have been saved," he told the newspaper.

"But you could say that they would say that, wouldn't they."


Moves are still continuing to bring the two suspects to trial under Scottish law in the Netherlands, acting as a neutral third country.

But the plans, already agreed by the US, UK and The Netherlands, are currently stalled over concerns as to where the two alleged terrorists, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, would serve any sentences if convicted.

President Nelson Mandela of South Africa recently sent an envoy, joined by a representative from Saudi Arabia, to Tripoli to urge Libya's President Muammar Gaddafi to permit the trial to go ahead.

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