Thursday, 10 October 2013

Victims group continues search for answers in Pan Am 103 bombing

[This is the headline over a report published earlier this week in The Daily Orange, the newspaper of Syracuse University, New York, which lost 35 students in the Lockerbie disaster.  It reads in part:]

In the late-December days following the Pan Am Flight 103 explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, friends and family of the 259 passengers boarded their own flights across the Atlantic.

“Victims’ family members went to Lockerbie because they just wanted to be there,” said Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc. “They were still bringing bodies in from the field.” (...)

The group formally organized in February 1989 to discover the truth about the bombing, said Duggan, who said he did not know anyone on the plane. The founding members advocated for airline safety and created a support network for grieving family and friends. While the passage of various air safety and victims advocacy legislation speak to the weighty influence of the victims’ group, current board members say the group continues to be an active political force working toward its founding goals. (...)

Aside from airline security, the Pan Am victims have played a significant role in shaping the way the US government deals with victims of disasters, said Richard Marquise, a retired FBI agent who worked on the investigation from the day of the crash.

“We did not have a lot of experience in dealing with victims,” Marquise said. “This was the first big one where we had to deal with 189 American victims and you actually had a cohesive group that came together and started asking questions of investigators.”

Marquise said he remembered the first time he addressed the victims group in Albany, NY, in early 1991 and the painful experience of hearing the family members say they felt the FBI wasn’t making any progress in the investigation.

“In terms of dealing with victims, it’s something that we did not do very well in the late 80s and 90s,” Marquise said.

But since then, he said, Congress has passed legislation to give victims more rights and ultimately deal with victims in a more proactive manner. “I won’t say they came out of Lockerbie, but part of the Lockerbie experience fed into how it’s in the government today,” he said.

The relationship between the victims group and the government continues to develop, said Duggan, president of the group, considering the investigation into the bombing is still open despite the indictment of Libyan Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi.

“To this day, 25 years later, they convicted one guy and we know that he didn’t do it himself,” Duggan said.

He said the group met with former FBI Director Robert Mueller for a briefing on the investigation before Mueller’s retirement in September. At the briefing, nearly 25 years after the actual bombing, Duggan said, Mueller promised to find who else was involved in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.

Said Duggan: “We’ve been promised that by the US government and I believe the US government is going to do the best they can to get to the bottom of that.”

[If the US government, like the Scottish police and Crown Office, are looking only in Libya they are unlikely to get anywhere.  But that, of course, may be the whole point.  

An interview with Frank Duggan has today been posted on the Syracuse website of The Post-Standard.]

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