December 16, 2008

Rocket, not lightning, killed Chinese man

A Chinese man believed to have been killed by lightning was actually done in by a small weather rocket found when it detonated during cremation, police say.

Authorities said people who were in the Inner Mongolia province house with Wang Diange -- who was overseeing a wake at the time of his death -- discovered his body amidst rubble after a large explosion that destroyed half of the home's roof, The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

The residents concluded that the home had been struck by lightning from a thunderstorm and police concurred with the assessment, releasing Wang's body for a funeral and cremation, the British newspaper said.

However, a few days after Wang's death, a weather rocket lodged in his body exploded while the corpse was being loaded into the cremation chamber, destroying the body and the doors of the cremation oven.

Authorities said a small piece of metal found in the oven after the blast led investigators to a local weather bureau, which had been firing rockets into the atmosphere in an attempt to protect tobacco crops from large hailstones.

Weather bureau internal investigators said one of the shells must have failed to detonate, crashed into the home where the wake was taking place and lodged in Wang's body, where authorities said it was concealed by the extensive injuries.

The weather bureau said it is paying Wang's family about $12,000 in damages.