Remembering Pan Am Flight 103: George Stobbs

George Stobbs, a retired inspector for Lockerbie Police, was one of the first officers on the scene on December 21, 1988. He recalls seeing "a great ball of fire" and the "terrific heat."

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I quickly got into uniform, jumped in my car, and I drove two hours to Lockerbie. On the outskirts of the town, I couldn't get any further because of the queue of traffic, and somebody was stopping cars getting into the town. So, I just drove my car onto the footpath and just abandoned it, walked out onto the road. And there was a police car coming along, picked me up, and headed for the police station. As we went over a fly-over, I could see to my right-hand side, which would be sort of south of Lockerbie, a great ball of fire, and I could smell smoke and aviation fuel. 

I couldn't understand it, to be quite honest, because still fixed in my mind was that this was a military aircraft. And the devastation I was seeing, I still couldn't fathom how it had happened. Anyway, I went into Sherwood Crescent, and as I got further into—it's sort of a semi-circle—and as I got into this area, there was a great roaring noise and flames coming out of a great big hole in the ground and dense, dense smoke. Terrific heat. I actually saw a wrought iron gate melting. It was like it was made of butter, and it was dripping. And there was a fireman standing there, and he had a hose, and there's no water coming out of it. And, of course, I’m saying, “What the hell is wrong with you, why don't you get up and put these fires out?” And he says, “Oh, we don’t have any water.” 

When the aircraft came in, one of the engines had fallen off, and one landed in one of the streets and the other one landed in a 10-acre field with a six-inch water pipe flowing down through it. And this engine had to land on top of that six-inch water pipe. There was no water. What they did was very ingenious: The fire brigade got the local dairy people to fill their milk tankers with water and bring it along, and they pumped it out of them and they put the fires out that way.

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