As a bus driver in India, avoiding fast oncoming danger was his trade. But there was nothing V Kamaraj could do when, as he washed his face at an outdoor water tower during his lunch break, he become the first person in modern recorded history to be struck dead by a meteorite.

That is the only explanation authorities have for the bizarre demise of the 40-year-old, who was last seen relaxing in the grounds of Bharathidasan Engineering College in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu at noon on Saturday when an explosion was heard.

Kamaraj was found lying unconscious next to a 60cm wide crater, with serious facial injuries. Several window panes were also broken.

"It was a sound like nothing I've ever heard before," said G Baskar, the college's principal. "There was no smell at all, no fire, nothing."


Alternative explanations such as leftover explosives from construction, or a terror attack, were swiftly ruled out by police after no chemical traces were found by forensics teams, leaving authorities with no option but to declare the most unusual of deaths.

In a country of India's size, meteorite strikes, though still rare, are recorded from time to time.

"At least one or two meteorites fall every year in India, but so far we've not had any damage to property or people," said Professor SVS Murty, of India's Physical Research Laboratory, which analyses rock samples from suspected "falls".

The victim's family will receive 100,000 rupees ($2330) from the state's public relief fund.