The man, an employee of Bharathidasan Engineering College, was at a water tank to fetch a drink shortly after midnight, when the meteorite struck. The impact caused an explosion which blew out window panes and windscreens of buses parked nearby, also damaging the water tank.
A bomb squad was immediately called out to investigate the scene, but explosives were ruled out after no volatile substances were found nearby.
“We can rule out the possibility of any terror angle or sabotage. Not a single ingredient pertaining to any kind of explosive was found at the site. We suspect it to be a meteorite fall,” said a top police official.
That theory was later confirmed by a senior astrophysicist of the National Physical Laboratory, Ahmedabad, who was camping not far from the impact site at the time of the blast. Local witnesses claimed to have seen an object falling from the sky, and a small crater was later identified at the impact site.
Given the high number of space rocks hurling about around our planet, you might think that meteorite deaths would be a more common occurrence, but actually Earth's atmosphere burns most of these up before they ever impact the ground. For the ones that do make it to impact, the odds of one actually hitting a person are extremely scant. That said, explosions from falling meteorites have injured a number of people before, a recent example being the Chelyabinsk meteor in Russia in 2013 which injured hundreds when it exploded in the sky over a populated area.
Other than this Indian man, the only recorded death by meteorite in history was to a dog in 1911 after a Martian meteorite called Nakhla hit and vaporized it.
Often when we quantify rare deaths, we compare them to the odds of getting struck by lightning (1 in 3,000 odds of being struck in your lifetime), or perhaps getting attacked by a shark (one in 11.5 million). But there are few events quite so rare as being killed by a meteorite.
Having said that, impacts from space rocks are the suspected cause of several mass extinctions throughout history, perhaps most notably with the asteroid that is widely believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. So while these events are rare, when they do happen on a large enough scale, they can be some of the most catastrophic events on Earth.