Scottish Authorities Admit Error in Body Switch
Jan. 12, 1989
LOCKERBIE, Scotland (AP) _ The bodies of two victims from the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 were shipped to the wrong families in the United States because of an administrative error, Scottish authorities said Wednesday.
One of the families was notified an hour before the funeral was scheduled to begin.
John Boyd, the chief constable for the district, said the error occurred during forensic examinations of the bodies recovered from the scene of the Dec. 21 crash, in which 270 people died.
The two victims were Karen Hunt, 20, of Webster, N.Y., and Mary Lincoln Johnson, 25, of Wayland, Mass.
''Throughout the course of the extensive investigation into the tragic disaster, the trauma and the stress being experienced by all relatives and friends of the victims has been uppermost in the minds of all concerned,'' Boyd said in a statement released Wednesday.
''It is unfortunate that this isolated administrative error has occurred, and further sympathies to the families concerned are offered by the authorities,'' he said.
The bodies of the two women were released Jan. 4, and Boyd said authorities learned of the apparent error three days later.
The mistake was discovered last week when the medical examiner's office in Rochester, N.Y., concluded that the Hunt family had not received the correct body.
FBI agents notified the Johnson family of the mistake just an hour before a funeral was scheduled on Sunday.
Ms. Hunt's father, Robert Hunt, said the family planned a prayer service but would not bury her until spring, when the ground thaws.
Ms. Hunt was returning to New York after completing a semester in London as part of a Syracuse University program.
Ms. Johnson, a graduate of Brown University, was returning to Wayland for Christmas with her family after spending 14 months abroad, touring India and teaching English in Taiwan.
Meanwhile, four explosives experts from Czechoslovakia arrived in London to assist in the investigation.
Investigators have concluded that the Boeing 747 was brought down by a bomb planted in the cargo hold, and have said that the explosion was consistent with a high-performance plastic explosive such as Semtex, which is manufactured in Czechoslovakia.