India may have recorded the first human fatality due to a meteorite.

Indian officials confirmed that a meteorite hit the premises of a private engineering college last Saturday, killing one person.

Once scientists confirm the still-mysterious explosion to be due to a falling space rock, the case would be the first recorded meteorite-caused human death.

Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa released a statement to the Indian media confirming the fatality.

"A mishap occurred yesterday when a meteorite fell in the campus of a private engineering college in Vellore district's K Pantharappalli village,” says Jayalalithaa.

The explosion occurred in the city of Vellore in the south Indian state of Tamil, which has a population of over 70 million.

Reports revealed that a bus driver – identified only as Kamaraj – was walking in the campus when he was allegedly struck by the meteorite and died. The victim was reportedly thrown 10 feet into the air by the explosion and pronounced dead in the hospital.

The impact, where witness accounts pointed to a mysterious object falling from the sky, was said to also injure three others and damage nearby buildings and vehicles.

Authorities earlier pointed to a bomb blast, yet forensic experts could not bring forward any trace of explosives. Instead, officials claimed to have recovered a piece of meteorite from a 2-foot-deep crater near a water tank in the site of the incident.

The irregularly shaped object, retrieved by a team headed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), weighs about 50 grams and is hardly 2 centimeters (0.79 inch) wide. It is brown-black in color and features air bubbles on a rigid surface.

Vellore district police also sought the help of researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics to examine the specimen and confirm if it is a meteorite.

The site of the incident is around 20 kilometers away from Bethaveppampattu, where a similar item suspected to be a meteorite fell last January 26. The object produced a perfect circle in a farm area, with no recorded casualty.

There has been no confirmed human death from meteorites so far, although they occasionally strike buildings and vehicles. Perhaps the closest to date would be the 2013 incident in Chelyabinsk in Russia, where a superbolide explosion in the city skies injured over 1,000 individuals and damaged hundreds of structures.

Photo: Jeff Barton | Flickr

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