Thirty years ago the world watched in horror as news broke of Pan Am flight 103 ‘Clipper Maid of the Seas’ crashing into the town of Lockerbie just after 7pm on December 21st 1988. It would later emerge that 243 passengers, 16 Crew and 11 Residents of Lockerbie were killed in the disaster. As the rescue and recovery efforts took place, it wasn’t long before the sheer scale of the incident became apparent, with Police, Fire, Ambulance, Army, RAF, and members of the public all helping out.
Although the majority of the fuselage had fallen on Lockerbie, pieces of aircraft, luggage, personal effects, and even some casualties had been strewn across a long strip of the country as the aircraft had fallen from 31,000ft resulting in probably the biggest land search we have ever seen in the UK.
As the days and weeks went by more and more resources were brought in to assist with the search. Seventeen days later, on January Saturday 7th 1989, Derby Mountain Rescue Team, along with other mountain rescue teams from across the country, joined the search. Based out of Bellingham in Northumberland, the team were tasked with an area outside Otterburn, some 60+ miles east of Lockerbie over the border in England. Seventeen team members spent two long days searching around 490 acres of land, with any items possibly relating to the crash being catalogued, bagged and the location found recorded. The team found twenty-five items in this relatively small area, ranging from plane interior to luggage and personal effects. It would later transpire that one of these items would be ‘significant’ and was used as a small part of the evidence in the case for prosecution. Some of the team members, who are still active in the team today, recall the sheer scale of the operation, with the number of personnel deployed from all types of emergency services, and a large number of helicopters searching across woodlands.
Some other teams were very unfortunate and their volunteers had to deal with sights that nobody should have to see, the toll of which is probably being felt to this day.
As the seventeen team members were returning home late on the Sunday evening, team members who had not been to the incident were called out closer to home. Unbelievably, just 15 miles from base, British Midland Flight 92 from London Heathrow bound for Belfast, had suffered engine trouble as a fan blade broke in the left engine. A fatal error meant the crew shut down the engine on the right side leaving the plane with limited power. It was routed to East Midlands Airport for an emergency landing, where having now suffered complete engine failure, the plane’s tail struck the ground in Kegworth, bouncing the plane over the M1 Motorway and into the embankment, breaking into three main sections, less than 500 metres short of the end of the runway. Forty-seven passengers died in the crash, while eight crew members and seventy-nine passengers survived, although seventy-four of those had suffered serious injuries. The team assisted the rescue operations by providing logistical support and communications for the Search and Rescue Dog Association(SARDA).
Both incidents were reviewed at the next Mountain Rescue Conference, where for the first time the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for rescuers was raised.
The team attended a total of seventeen callouts in 1989, this year we are currently at sixty-eight. Derby Mountain Rescue Team is a registered Charity, which relies on public donations to support the annual running costs of around £30,000. All team members are unpaid volunteers, on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Derby Mountain Rescue Team is a charitable company (1089237) limited by guarantee.
Registered in England & Wales No 4229996.
Registered Office: Derby Mountain Rescue Team, Ashbourne Road,
Mackworth, Derby, DE22 4NB
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