A rain of fiery wreckage and torn human body parts hit the town of Lockerbie in the minutes after a Pan Am jumbo jet was blown up by a bomb on a December night in 1988, witnesses said on April 4.
Glass fragments from the windows of exploding houses ripped through the air and terrified residents stumbled over limbs and corpses in the dark, bewildered by the inferno that struck the town from high above.
Witnesses told a court holding Scotland's biggest murder trial that huge fireballs exploded "like an atomic bomb" when the Boeing 747's engines and wing struck the earth, and the stench of aviation fuel permeated the air.
"There was fire just raining down right beside me. I was dodging as it landed," said Lockerbie resident Jasmine Bell, 53. Bell said her son asked her what an unidentified lump in the dark street could be and she said it was "just meat, son."
"Then it registered that it wasn't 'just meat'," she said.
Witnesses said they could hear screams from the houses.
Defense lawyers had no questions for the five eye-witnesses who testified on the second day of the trial to a grim court.
"It looked like an atomic bomb," said Ian Wood, 37, who recalled the fierce heat and blast as a large part of the aircraft exploded, sending a rolling ball of fire high into the night.
Wood said he ventured out on the street and found a body.
Roland Stevenson was listening to his car radio outside Lockerbie railway station at a few minutes past seven on the evening of December 21, waiting to pick up his daughter.
Stevenson said he heard a thunderous noise and got out of his car to see a fireball. Moments later he saw "a black mass with lights, gliding at a shallow angle over the town."
"It was either lights or small flames. It was very dark that night," he said.
Stevenson said he saw the entire wing of the plane "from wingtip to wingtip" descending vertically. "There was no fuselage, no tail, no engines."
He saw a "silver door panel very clearly visible, shining in the night sky" and dark objects which he thought later were probably seat sections.
One of the Lockerbie victims' relatives said the scene sounded like a war zone.
"It brings home the horror of how this hit Scotland, the Scottish people. These people were literally bombed," said American Jim Wolfe.
"When you hear the description it sounds like a world war."
Stevenson said that as he began driving home to nearby Dumfries he saw "cars burning on the highway."
"I went to the police and told them all that I had seen. The policeman listened to my story and decided to write it down," he concluded, provoking the only smiles from observers during the morning's grim testimony.
Geoffrey Carpenter, the traffic police superintendent, was off duty when "an almighty exlosion" blew open the door to his home.
"There was an inrush of air from the outside. I ran out into the front garden, and ... there was a glow in the sky and debris up to between 400-600 feet in the air."
Carpenter, the last of the 11 witnesses to testify, was the first witness in the trial to be cross-examined by the defense.
Questioned by Bill Taylor, who represents Al-Megrahi, the policeman confirmed that it would have been impossible to secure what the lawyer described as "a crime scene of that size."
Taylor also asked him when the first reporters and investigators arrived on the scene and what "modern and sophisticated equipment" they brought, suggesting the evidence could have been tampered with.
Carpenter saw reporters within 11/2 hours and said FBI staff came two or three days later with digital cameras and satellite communications equipment.
Kevin Anderson, a plasterer from neighboring Tundergarth, was working on his car when the cockpit fell intact in the field next to his home. The name of the aircraft, Maid of the Seas, was still legible on the aluminum skin.
"We went over to the cockpit to see if anyone was alive. I had a torch. We looked inside the cockpit. I could see the pilot."
For many in the Lockerbie community, the trial reawakens traumatic memories.
"It brings it all home," said Carpenter, trembling as he spoke. "I would like to hope that at the end of this court proceeding we'll get back to normality. It's something that affects the rest of our lives."
"I do my best just not think about it," said Stuart Kirkpatrick, who found the body of a young girl a few feet from his doorstep. "It's the easiest way to get through."
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