DUMFRIES, Scotland (AP) _ An orange fireball dropped from the night sky and exploded ''like a miniature atomic bomb'' over the town of Lockerbie, a policeman recalled today as he recounted the crash of Pan Am Flight 103.

''The debris ran like a carpet across the countryside, a trail of devastation and bodies,'' said Constable Michael Stryjewski.

Stryjewski was the first witness to testify at the public inquiry that began Monday into the terrorist bombing of the Boeing 747 on Dec. 21, 1988. All 259 people aboard the New York-bound jetliner and 11 on the ground in Lockerbie were killed.

In his account of the plane's final moments, Stryjewski said he heard jet engines and saw ''an orange glow in the sky'' from the window of his home that overlooks the town of 3,000.

''The glow appeared to be growing larger and coming downward,'' he said. ''The next thing I saw were shapes falling to the ground somewhere in Lockerbie. ... There was a horrendous noise, an explosion.''

''The explosion was like a miniature atomic bomb and a mushroom of cloud and flame went upward,'' he said. ''It just kept going up. I'd say it reached 1,000 feet.''

Debris hit the roof of his house. The tiles lifted and came down. The double-glazing on his windows cracked.

The policeman said he could see houses on fire in the Sherwood Crescent area and tried to make an emergency call but his phone was dead.

He jumped into his car, drove to the Lockerbie police station, picked up a first-aid kit and headed for Sherwood Crescent, where he found some houses on fire and others destroyed.

He started searching for survivors. He found bodies in one burning house. In another house, he said, he treated an elderly man with a head wound.

Then he drove to a nearby farm where he discovered more bodies and two engines from an aircraft.

Returning to Lockerbie, he saw wreckage scattered everywhere. One body was in the road, and nearby he spotted an airline ticket from London's Heathrow Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

''That's when I realized it was an airliner,'' he said. ''Up until then, I thought it was two fighter aircraft that collided.''

The inquiry, which is to focus on ways to prevent a similar disaster, was adjourned Tuesday and Wednesday after the death of Scottish attorney Michael Hughes, who was representing relatives of American victims.

He was killed in a car crash Monday.

Police have said the radio-cassette recorder bomb hidden in a suitcase was probably put aboard the flight in Frankfurt. The flight changed from a Boeing 727 to a Boeing 747 at London's Heathrow Airport.

Scottish officials have said they are investigating Ahmed Jibril's radical Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and Mohammed Abu Talb of the Popular Struggle Front, who was convicted of bombings in Europe.