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Residents Watch Jet Explode In Red Ball of Fire With AM-Britain-Plane Crash

January 9, 1989

KEGWORTH, England (AP) _ David Harris stood horrified in his garden as a twin-engine jetliner flew 60 feet over his head and crashed nearby, turning the night sky red. ″Thoughts of Lockerbie came into my mind,″ he said.

Less than three weeks after a bomb ripped apart Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, the residents of the small central England town of Kegworth watched British Midland Airways Flight 92, its left engine aflame, crash as it tried to make an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport.

″I was in the front bedroom of my bungalow when I heard a low sound which was obviously an aircraft in trouble,″ Harris said. ″I rushed out into the garden. Literally 60 feet above ground was the aircraft, obviously coming down.

″My wife ran to the back of the house and shouted she could see the left engine on fire. Seconds later, there was an explosion as it hit the ground on top of the motorway, just a short distance from our house. The sky lit up red,″ he said.

″The pilot did well to avoid our built-up area in Kegworth village. It was only seconds away from hitting the center of the community,″ Harris said.

George Mellors, 46, another resident of this town of about 2,000, said the plane sounded more like a train - ″it was going bang, bang like a train going over points.″

″We have been very lucky,″ he said. ″It could easily have been another Lockerbie.″

In the Pan Am crash, all 259 people aboard were killed along with 11 Lockerbie residents whose homes were hit by some of the jumbo jet’s wreckage.

The British Midlands Boeing 737-400, bound from London for Belfast, had 126 people on board and police reported at least 32 died. It managed to just miss the M1, England’s main north-south highway, hitting a grassy embankment by Junction 24 before splitting apart.

It undershot the runway by about half a mile, shearing off treetops and ripping apart with its tail embedded in the ground while the cockpit ended up in a thicket.

Bewildered motorists swerved in fright and there were some minor collisions.

Teen-ager Robert Angwin, from Kegworth, was one of the first on the scene.

At first, he said, ″there was a silence ... then people began screaming and moaning.″

Joe Weston-Webb, 50, who lives in the nearby village of Sutton Bonningale, said he saw many bodies while helping the rescuers.

″The seats were all slapped on top of each other where they had gone forward. And the seats had all gone forward toward the cockpit end and the people had all been shunted together. There were people in a sort of concertina, you had to take the seats from the back of the people in front to get them out,″ he said.

Many seemed to have smashed ankles and legs, and facial injuries, he said.

″It seems a miracle that any one got out alive though, and I can’t believe that it all didn’t go up in flames. It was horrendous.″

Angwin said: ″I ran across the fields to help and dragged three bodies from the wreckage and five people who were still alive.

″It was total devastation,″ he said. ″I saw a baby taken out alive. Luckily there were more survivors than dead.″

The Rev. Michael Brandon, 32, described how he say prayers for the victims of the tragedy.

″I held one man’s hand as he died and I whispered the Lord’s prayer - what more can you do?″

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