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Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 17:16 GMT
Witnesses speak of 'big bang'
Television pictures of vapour trail
Numerous witnesses said they heard "sonic-type boom"
Residents in north Texas have said they heard a "big bang" not long before the US space shuttle Columbia was scheduled to land at 0916 (1416 GMT) in Florida.

"It was like a car hitting the house or an explosion. It shook that much," John Ferolito of Carrolton, north of Dallas, told the BBC.

"Ten minutes later I heard they had lost contact with the shuttle.

Ilan Ramon, Nasa
Ilan Ramon: First Israeli astronaut
"I put the two facts together and called to say I had heard a boom.

"The boom I heard was the space shuttle breaking up but apparently the debris falling is being carried outside the Dallas area to a remote area east of here."

Terry Tawater, from Palestine, Texas, told BBC News Online that, at 0801, his house began to rumble.

He said: "The whole house was shaking and I immediately ran outside and the shuttle was flying extremely low.

"Almost as soon as I got outside it was gone and there were vapour trails filling the sky - it was unbelievable.

"We sometimes see the shuttle high in the sky late at night, but never anything like this."

As soon as I got outside it was gone and there were vapour trails filling the sky - it was unbelievable

Terry Tawater
Mr Tawater said other residents had reported chunks of debris falling in their backyards.

Television pictures showed a vapour trail from the craft as the shuttle flew over Dallas.

Lieutenant Paul Peterson, of Nacogdoches Police, Dallas, heard the explosion over his police department.

"It lasted over 30-45 seconds. It blew the doors open on various business in the area.

"We thought it was a couple of jet fighters that sometimes train over this area doing low fly-overs"

'Bright objects'

"A minute later we got reports coming in of debris coming down."

He said they police had had no reports on any damage caused by the falling debris.

"No-one has been injured. Fortunately it happened at a time when not many people were up and about."

Another witness, Gary Hunziker in Plano, described what he believed was the break up of the shuttle.

"I could see two bright objects flying off each side of it."

Columbia, Nasa's oldest shuttle that first flew in 1981, carried seven crew members aboard - six Americans and the first Israeli in space.

It had been scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


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01 Feb 03 | Americas
15 Jan 03 | Science/Nature
16 Jan 03 | Middle East
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