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article imageTamil Nadu meteorite death could be first in 200 years

By Sonia D'Costa     Feb 8, 2016 in Science
Tamil Nadu scientists are now investigating the death of a man in Vellore, declared to have been killed by a falling meteorite.
If scientists confirm that the man had indeed died of a meteorite falling on him, it will be the first recorded death by meteorite in the past 200 years. According to the records maintained by the International Comet Quarterly, a meteorite death was last reported in 1825.
Experts are skeptical because meteorite deaths are extremely rare. According to an astrophysicist from the University of Sheffield, Simon Goodwin, meteorites burn up while hurtling through the atmosphere of the earth and usually fall in remote areas or oceans.
Dr. Sten Odenwald, a retired astronomer and educator, says in a blog post titled "Death by Meteorite!" that, even if all the alleged meteorite deaths are considered true, it would be only 20 people killed by meteorites in 100 years. This would put the death by meteorite rate to one in 20 billion people per year. This means that a person has only a one in 250 billion chance of being killed by a falling meteorite in his lifetime of around 80 years.
In his post in Daily O, Bajinder Pal Singh cites the National History Museum of London as having said that "there have been no recorded deaths due to a meteorite fall."
But J. Jayalalitha, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, has already declared that Kamaraj, a bus driver at Bharathidasan Engineering College in Natrampalli, died because of a meteorite falling on him. She has even given his family a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh. She said: "A meteorite fell within the college premises. The man sustained serious injuries and died while on the way to the hospital."
Reportedly, Kamaraj died after a blast near the college water tank, the reasons for which are still unknown. The blast broke several windows and created a small crater. The bus driver, who was standing near the college canteen, was killed while a student and two gardeners in the vicinity sustained injuries. Later, officials found a dark blue stone on the scene of the blast.
Initially, government officials suspected that the blast was caused by some explosives that were carelessly left behind by construction workers, but they found no evidence of explosives.
A district official, who requested to remain anonymous, said: "When no evidence of explosive material was found, we moved to the theory that it might be a meteorite. It is not confirmed yet as samples need to be analyzed.”
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