Here is how it was reported back in August 1982.
(AP) When a bomb explosion ripped a hole in the cabin of the Boeing 747 he was piloting between Tokyo and Honolulu, Captain Roy Hawk said that his “job was to fly that plane to safety.” And he did.
The Pan Am Jumbo Ket was carrying 285 people on the “late flight” out of Tokyo.
Hawk, 50, had just called for clearance from Honolulu International Airport to descend from 35,000 feet to 26,000 feet. The plane was about 135 miles– 25 minutes– from the airport.
Suddenly, “We felt the pressure change in the cockpit and heard a sound we thought was an engine backfire,” Hawk said.
A few seconds later, the bottom fell off the pressure gauge and “we thought we lost total pressure in the cabin,” Hawk said.
“It wasn’t too bad in the cockpit because we were isolated from the explosion, but I imagine back in the cabin, the shock hurt pretty bad. It was a mess there.
The explosion had been a bomb planted by a splinter group from the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The explosion had blown a hole through the fear passenger cabin killing a Japanese teenager and wounding 15 passengers.
One passenger, Tom Stanton, 34, of Honolulu, said, that after the explosion there was “all this smoke and debris and passengers screaming… there was a lot of panic in the far back of the airplane, passengers were yelling and screaming.”
Toru Ozawa, the 16-year-old boy killed in the blast, was sitting with his parents who were only slightly injured. They transported his body back to his native Japan.
Under the Bush Administration, the United States was still hunting some of those responsible.
In the rear of the plane, 16-year-old Toru Ozawa lay on his back in the aisle. His lower abdomen had been ripped open, his intestines seeping out. The explosion had also sheered off one of his legs. He called out for his mother and father; they watched in horror as he died.
The man behind the bombing: Abu Ibrahim, who controlled a web of dangerous operatives while living in Baghdad under the protection of Saddam Hussein.
On Aug. 11, 1982, Mohammed Rashed, a top 15 May lieutenant, boarded a flight from Baghdad to Tokyo along with his Austrian-born wife Christine Pinter and their child.
Before Rashed, Ibrahim’s apprentice, disembarked in Tokyo, he activated a bomb under the cushion of window seat 47K. Once on the ground, Rashed and his wife got off the plane, which continued to Honolulu. Ozawa, who was on vacation with his family, sat in Rashed’s seat.
While the bomb killed Ozawa and injured 14 others, Rashed’s mission was only a partial success. Despite a large hole in the cabin floor exposing the cargo area, the plane managed to land safely.
It took a while to get Rashed.
The CIA wanted to snatch Rashed first in Tunis in 1986 and then in Sudan in 1988. It never happened.
While the FBI waited out Ibrahim, agents did manage eventually to arrest Rashed in 1998 after he was released from a Greek prison. The Jordanian pleaded guilty to bombing the 1982 Pan Am flight in December 2002
Rashed wrote AP from prison — even though his plea agreement prohibited media interviews — saying he and Ibrahim met in Iraq in the 1970s and bonded “over the Palestinian cause and other politics topics.” Rashed emerged as a top lieutenant and bomb courier as Ibrahim prepared explosives intended for American and Israeli targets. He was, prosecutors say, a “cold-blooded killer” with a criminal history that included drug smuggling, escaping from a Turkish prison and traveling the world under fake passports and bogus identities.
“The sad thing about this is Toru Ozawa is dead. He’d be a man with a family, and it was heartbreaking,” said Dan Bent, then Hawaii’s U.S. Attorney. “He was killed right in the presence of his family. He was eviscerated by this bomb.”
Roy Hawk, the Pan Am 830 pilot, said he’s never forgotten the carnage inside the plane. He was dismayed to learn of Rashed’s pending release.
“To tell you the truth, I never figured he’d be released,” Hawk said. “I just figured he’d be in prison the rest of his life, and that was it.”
Who needs Gitmo and military trials anyway? Except perhaps the family of the boy he murdered.