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Meteorite Crashes into Virginia Doctors' Office

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 22, 2010

The staff at a Lorton, VA family physician practice thought they were dealing with a malfunctioning heating duct when they heard what sounded like a small explosion in a vacant examination room Monday night.

"We didn't know what it was. We left the room as it was and went home. We thought we would deal with it in the morning," says Kathy Ciampi, RN, with Williamsburg Square Family Practice. "We just had the heating system tweaked, and I thought something probably blew up in the system. We'll call the repairman in the morning."

As it happens, the explosion was caused by a grapefruit-sized meteorite that punched through the shingled dormer roof, insulation, and ceiling tiles on the one-story building, and came to rest in three large pieces on the concrete floor.

"It looked like it was fired out of something. It did a lot of devastation to the room. Everything was scattered everywhere," Ciampi says. "It was about 300 grams, the size of a grapefruit, a light gray concrete color on the inside, but the outside was dark and streaked and shiny. Our office manager's husband is a geologist. She described it to him. He drove an hour to get here and said 'you've got a meteorite.' We didn't believe him."

Ciampi thought the mysterious object more likely fell off an airplane or a helicopter from nearby Ft. Belvoir.

"We're doctors and nurses. Nobody's thinking meteorite. So we went on the Internet to look up meteorite, got a magnet to see if it was magnetized. It was magnetized," she says. "In the meantime, we called the Fairfax County police because we weren't sure if it came out of an airplane. The policeman was rolling his eyes when we told him. 'Yeah sure it's a meteorite.' And when it magnetized, his eyes got really big and then all the TV stations started calling."

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