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2 Passengers On Flight 103 Might Have Survived, Pathologist Says

October 17, 1990 GMT

DUMFRIES, Scotland (AP) _ Two passengers might have survived the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 had they received the best medical care immediately, a Scottish pathologist testified Wednesday.

The other 259 people aboard the aircraft died when the bomb blew apart the jetliner Dec. 21, 1988 or were killed by the 30,000-foot fall to earth, said Dr. Anthony Busuttil, professor of Forensic Medicine at Edinburgh University.

He told the fatal accident inquiry that eight pathologists grouped the victims into three categories: the majority of passengers with gross injuries who likely died immediately; those less severely injured but whose vital organs were extensively damaged and who either died at once or because of the fall; and two passengers with less severe injuries.

″It is possible that this (third) group may have survived for a short time,″ Busuttil said. ″The chances are that, even if they had survived, they would have been deeply unconscious after sustaining their injuries.″

Asked by the Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser if either of the two could have survived given the ″best-qualified medical team possible,″ Busuttil said: ″there is a possibility that, if resuscitation was available immediately, with access to hospital facilities, there could have been survival.″

The pathologist did not identify the two or say where their bodies were found. Sgt. David Johnston told the inquiry he had contacted the two victims’ relatives in the United States and they did not want the names released.

He said most of those in the Boeing 747 would have hit the ground at about 120 mph after falling for about 2 1/2 minutes.

″Some victims may have fallen faster because they were attached to heavy parts of the aircraft. Some may have fallen more slowly because they were with parts of the aircraft which fluttered down,″ he said.

Busuttil testified that Noelle Berti, a flight attendant from Paris who was reported to have been alive shortly after the crash, sustained injuries ″totally incompatible″ with survival. On Oct. 4, a woman who had trained as a nurse for six months testified she briefly detected a young female victim’s pulse. Other witnesses identified the victim as Ms. Berti.

Busuttil also said a report by the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology that the pilot and at least 147 other victims possibly lived until they struck the ground was ″disgraceful.″


Eleven residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, died when the plane slammed into their village. The pathologist said all 11 were killed instantly when the plane’s fuel-laden wing section exploded in a fireball. The bodies of seven residents were never found.

Busuttil said there was no evidence that the bomb, in a baggage container on the New York-bound flight, created a fire in the aircraft.