‘Thud from above trashed my motor’

Car rocked: Richard Cumberbirch with the fragment of stone which damaged his car.
Car rocked: Richard Cumberbirch with the fragment of stone which damaged his car.
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A Blackpool man was left puzzled by a bolt from the blue which left his car trashed.

Richard Cumberbirch was horrified when he left his Chevrolet Camaro for a few seconds to grab his credit card from his home only to return to find a hole punched through his rear window by a weird looking stone.

At first he thought he had been the victim of a vandal attack but as there was no one around wondered if there was a stranger cause.

After discussing it with friends the graphic designer from Weeton Avenue was left thinking it might have been a meteorite strike.

But after carrying out some research he said the truth could be even stranger than that.

He said: “I had nipped home from work to get my credit card because I had a dental appointment.

“I dashed in to the house and when I came out I saw the rear window was shattered with a small hole punched right throught he laminated glass.

“I was in a rush so I couldn’t do a proper search so it was only later when I found the object that did it wedged in the car’s spoiler. It had snapped in half and was surprisingly heavy.

“I had parked the car where I don’t usually leave it because I was in a rush so it was a million to one chance that it got hit.

“It is a quiet area anyway and it was about 11.40am so there was no-one around . So I didn’t think it could be vandalism.

“I checked online to see if it could have been a meteorite and it did look a bit like some of the examples.”

Richard took photographs of the rock which is about 40 cm long, heavily pitted on the outside but black on the inside.

These were sent off to various experts to see if they could give it an initial identification.

Mark Ford from the British and Irish meteorite society said the sausage shaped rock was not extra-terrestial but was likely to be a piece of beach flint.

He said: “It’s visually slightly different to chalk cliff flint, in that it’s weathered from the chalk bed rock and then has been rounded off by the sea.

“But otherwise it’s the same material. I do prehistoric flint knapping (making Stone Age tools) so I just happen to know a bit about Flint, I use similar rocks to make arrow heads and axes!

“Stangely it could have been dropped by a seagull – they often carry stones aloft and drop them!

“That originates because gulls drop sea shells to break them. I’ve actually seen this happen myself on the beach.”

Peter Franklin from the Blackpool and District Astronomical Society said meteorite falls are rare but between ten and fifty meteorites land every day across the whole Earth.

He said most shooting stars seen at night were tiny grians of dust but larger ones which do make it through the atmosphere where they melt due to the friction heat generated can reach the ground.

He said: “In February 2013 an extremely bright daytime fireball and airburst was witnessed by many thousands of people across Russia and Kazakhstan, producing several meteorite falls and a very large shockwave.

“In 1992 a bright fireball produced a meteorite weighing around 12kg and measuring about 30cm, which landed on the boot of a car in Peekskill, New York. The associated fireball was videoed by several witnesses and the meteorite and car became very valuable, being sold for around $70k and $10k, respectively.

“It is quite rare that meteorite falls are actually observed. You really do have to be in the right (or wrong!) place at the right time.”

Richard added: “If it indeed was dropped by a seagull then that is even stranger than a meteorite. I wonder what the odds are of a gull hitting your car with a peice of flint. I was pretty unlucky considering the car is hardly ever parked there and during work time too.”