The small space rock hit the campus of an engineering university in India's southernmost state
A 40-year-old man in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is believed to be the first person in recorded history to have been killed by a meteor strike. The rock, which struck the campus of a university in the southernmost region of India, left a 1.2m crater in the soil when it fell from space at 12.30pm on Saturday.
The force of the explosion resulted in the injuries of three gardeners and was so intense that nearby windows shattered. The university students who were in classes at the time were unharmed.
On Sunday, the region’s chief minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, popularly known as Jaya, said that the man’s death had indeed been caused by the space rock.
“A mishap occurred yesterday when a meteorite fell in the campus of a private engineering college in Vellore district’s K Pantharappalli village,” she said in a statement, pledging that the local district administration would provide medical help to the three injured gardeners.
The victim of the freak accident, identified by college officials as a driver named Kamaraj, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Piece of a meteorite found at a private engineering college in Vellore. One person was dead in the explosion. pic.twitter.com/TON5qzIw7N— J Sam Daniel Stalin (@jsamdaniel) February 7, 2016
Windows shattered due to Meteor impact at Naatraampalli, Vellore. Just like russian meteor impact . pic.twitter.com/5ioJdNBV1c— Prashanth (@itisprashanth) February 7, 2016
Eyewitnesses claimed that they had spotted an object falling from the sky and striking the college campus, but police initially sought confirmation that the explosion had been an act of terrorism. Finding no trace of an explosive or a grenade, they turned to a scientist who was camping in the area who was investigating reports of another meteorite strike in Vellore two weeks prior.
“When our bomb and explosives experts ruled out the presence of usual chemicals and explosive contents, it was the scientist who visited the campus and confirmed it was an incident caused by a meteorite,” a police spokesman said.
Reports of meteors striking living targets are few, with the only recorded death so far believed to be a Venezuelan cow that was struck dead by a meteorite in 1972. The only confirmed human victim of gravity’s joke in history thus far is Ann Hodges, who was hit by a space rock in her Alabama home in 1954, surviving.
The odds of being hit by an asteroid are, according to one astronomer, as low as one in 700,000.
The Tamil Nadu public relief fund has offered the family of Kamaraj ₹100,000 (€1,300) in compensation.