A curious case of death is under investigation in Tamil Nadu not only by the police but also by the scientific community. The case pertains to the death of a man from, what Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said, a meteorite.
The incident happened on the campus of Bharathidasan Engineering College located near Natrampalli in the Vellore district of the state on Saturday.
Reports on Sunday said that Kamaraj, a bus driver, was killed in an explosion that left a crater in the ground and shattered window panes of nearby buildings.
Kamraj was walking past a building, and succumbed to serious injuries from the explosion. Three others were injured from the explosion.
On Sunday, Jayalalithaa said that the explosion was from a meteorite. This is what her statement says:
“A mishap occurred yesterday when a meteorite fell in the campus of a private engineering college in Vellore district’s K Pantharappalli village.”
According to some reports, witnesses notice a “drone-like object” before the explosion.
If it is confirmed by the scientific community that Kamraj died from a meteorite strike, it would be the first human casualty from a space rock.
According to the International Comet Quarterly, which maintains a list of “interesting meteorite falls of the last two centuries”, there has been only one incident in which a man died from a meteorite strike. But that incident happened in 1825.
On January 16, 1825 a man was killed and a woman injured in Oriang, Malwate, from a meteorite fall which was described as “possible” by Lincoln La Paz, a celebrated meteorite hunter, in 1958.
There were two other similar incidents in India. One happened in Mhow, in Indore, in 1827 where a man was wounded “severely in the arm” when hit by meteorite. The other happened as recently as 2003, when the sky of Mayurbhanj in Odisha was lit by “bright fireball(s) just after sunset; widely observed meteorite shower yielding numerous highly magnetic meteorites”.
In other words, there were no witness to the 1825 incident and no one was killed in the other two, which means that the Natrampalli case could be the first such incident.