The chances of being struck and killed by space debris are minuscule, but that’s no comfort to the family of a bus driver in India, who died yesterday after being hit by what local officials say was a meteorite.
The man, identified as V. Kamaraj, who drove a bus for Bharathidasan Engineering College in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was walking near “the area where the object struck,” The Wall Street Journal reports. It adds:
“The powerful explosion smashed the windows of classrooms and the windshields of vehicles parked in the vicinity. Students at the college were immediately sent home and classes were suspended until Wednesday.”
Three others were injured in the explosion, and Reuters reports that “a dark blue stone resembling a diamond was found at the scene.”
Though scientists must first analyze the fragments found at the site of the explosion before confirming death by meteorite, a local official spoke with certainty.
“A meteorite fell within the college premises,” J. Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu’s chief minister, said, according to Reuters, adding that Kamaraj died on the way to the hospital.
Meteorites are meteoroids that make it to Earth. They’re so rare because meteoroids usually burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, creating the look of shooting stars. Casualties from meteorite strikes are even more rare because if a meteoroid doesn’t burn up upon entry to Earth, chances are it will plop harmlessly into one of the oceans that cover 70 percent of the planet’s surface.
In fact, according to International Comet Quarterly, a scientific journal that tracks “interesting meteorite falls of the last two centuries,” the last space rock tragedy happened in 1825 when a man was killed by what the journal considers a “possible” meteorite.
An interesting coincidence? The fatal strike also happened in India.