As a rookie reporter, Lorraine Kelly witnessed first-hand the devastation of Europe’s deadliest terror attack when she was sent to cover the Lockerbie bombing for breakfast station TV-am.
Now, 35 years on, she is revisiting the small Dumfriesshire town in a new documentary, Return To Lockerbie With Lorraine Kelly, to explore how residents coped with the aftermath of the tragedy.
On December 21, 1988, a bomb ripped apart a Pan Am passenger flight heading to the US for Christmas. The airliner was flying from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York and the bomb detonated 38 minutes after take-off, killing all 259 passengers and crew.
Tragedy: Lorraine Kelly reports from the disaster scene
Revisiting: Ms Kelly returns to the town in 2023
There were 11 deaths on the ground when part of the fuselage smashed into the residential Sherwood Crescent, leaving a huge crater where homes had been and bringing the death toll to 270.
Ms Kelly, one of the first to the scene, described seeing the broken cockpit of the plane, which was ‘still warm’, and the craters and bodies as she drove through the town’s outskirts.
She also described standing on the edge of the devastation, watching as the emergency services tried to rescue people.
She said: ‘The exhausted rescue services searched in vain for people to save. All they could do that night, and in the days to come, was locate and recover the bodies of all of the dead.
‘Looking back, as we trudged through that field, I realise I was only able to function and do my job because it felt so utterly unreal. It was like the set of a disaster movie.’
The 63-year-old decided to make the documentary to shed light on the suffering of those in Lockerbie.
Speaking to the Radio Times, she said: ‘While the world moved on, people in Lockerbie had to stay and deal with the aftermath. I always believed people in Lockerbie didn’t receive proper recognition for their incredible generosity of spirit, as well as their suffering.’
The nose of the airliner after the bombing
Speaking to the Radio Times, she said: ‘While the world moved on, people in Lockerbie had to stay and deal with the aftermath’
The breakfast TV star was struck by the ‘strong bonds forged between local people and the bereaved’.
She said she remembers the ‘kind thoughtfulness’ of women in the town who washed the dirt and blood from the clothes of the dead, carefully wrapped them up and sent them to bereaved relatives.
Ms Kelly had previously recalled crying on Christmas Day and described one of her most vivid memories of the disaster as the people taking down their Christmas decorations, as ‘no one wanted to celebrate’.
In her heart-wrenching return more than three decades later, she interviews Colin Dorrance, an 18-year-old policeman at the time of the disaster, who has opened his home and heart to relatives of those killed who have made the pilgrimage to the town.
She also speaks to Renee Boulanger, whose sister Nicole, 21, died on the flight, and Nicole’s best friend Kim Wickham, about visiting the town’s memorial.