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34 years after Pan Am 103 tragedy: Family of Alliance victim, Peter Vulcu, feels justice is finally near

Bombing suspect brought to U.S. to stand trial for 270 deaths
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Posted at 5:45 PM, Dec 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-21 18:22:32-05

ALLIANCE, Ohio — As family members gathered around the final resting place of Peter Vulcu at Alliance City Cemetery on a cold December morning, it was clear time has not healed all of their wounds.

Vulcu was among 270 people killed on Dec. 21, 1988 after a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

"We would do anything to bring him back, but there's nothing we can do," said his niece, Mary Leech.

However, 34 years of time also does not erase the cherished memories of Vulcu, remembered by his family for his smarts. At just 21-years-old, he had already become a stockbroker. His sense of humor was also classic, his relatives told News 5.

"He was a big jokester. He was always playing pranks on people, just kind of the life of the party," said his niece, Gabrielle Vulcu.

Peter boarded the ill-fated Pan Am flight in London. He had studied abroad in Romania. His loved ones said he was supposed to take a Romanian flight back to the United States, but changed his plans.

"He had changed his flight. He had changed his ticket at the very last minute," Leech said.

Back in Cleveland, relatives, including Leech, waited for Peter to get off his scheduled connecting flight from New York. When he didn't, the family figured he was playing one his famous pranks on them.

However, they were taken to a room by airline officials and told Peter was on the passenger list of a downed plane in Scotland.

"I just couldn't believe it. I was pretty distraught," Leech said. "He was like a brother to me."

All 259 people on the flight, along with 11 people on the ground, were killed. Among the dead were 35 University of Syracuse students on their way home for the holidays.

The next day, Peter's brother-in-law, Aurel Bosca, and other family members flew to Scotland to identify the body.

"They actually had him set up in a coffin. He was pretty recognizable," Bosca said. "I really don't want to remember that day, but it was devastating."

This month, the family began experiencing different feelings when the U.S Department of Justice announced a federal indictment against 71-year-old Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi.

Federal officials said Mas'ud is a Libyan intelligence officer, who is accused of building the bomb.

After a lengthy investigation, Mas'ud was brought to the U.S. earlier this month. He's being held without bail in a Virginia detention center. He's charged with destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce by means of an explosive resulting in death.

Bosca credits the families of the victims for keeping pressure on the U.S. government for decades.

"It's the fight that the family put on the government to keep trying to go after him," Bosca said.

"Honestly, we did not feel like we would ever get this day, so we're just happy that we can have a little bit more closure," Gabrielle Vulcu said.

Every year since the Pan Am tragedy, there has been a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Vulcu family did not attend the 2022 service, but they've taken part in the ceremony several other years.

It's not lost on them that the indictment was handed down so close to the anniversary.

"There's a lot of irony there, but it is somewhat comforting. The memorial service in Arlington has always been a comfort," Leech said.

While an act of terrorism changed so many lives 34 years ago, the Vulcu family said Peter's memory will never be forgotten.

"He was the encourager. He was the person I looked up to," Leech said.

The family stressed they'll also never give up on the fight for justice.

"Glad they got him. We're glad they got him and hopefully justice is going to be done," Bosca said.

"We just have to keep pursuing and not giving up that all of the answers will come," Leech added.

In 1991, charged were filed against two other Libyan intelligence officers, federal officials said. They were tried in a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands. One of them was convicted. The other was acquitted.

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