October 27, 2009

Alleged Latvia Meteorite A Hoax

Yesterday it was purported to be the site of a meteorite crash, but today a telephone company admitted it was a hoax.

Firefighters rushed to a farm near the northern town of Mazsalaca at 5:30 p.m. Sunday after nearby residents reported seeing something fall from the sky and set fire on the ground.

"We concluded that the impact must have come from the air and this is why we believe it could have been a meteorite," Inga Vetere, a spokeswoman for the Baltic nation's State Fire and Rescue Service, reported Monday.

But on Tuesday, a spokesman for telephone company Tele2 admitted that the alleged meteorite crash was a publicity stunt intended to "inspire Latvia."

AFP reported that the spokesman said Tele2 would pay emergency services, including firefighters, police, army and scientists for their effort. The cost is estimated to be at least 2,000 lats ($4,250).

Investigators on Monday announced they would launch a criminal investigation if the crater was found to be the result of a hoax.

Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center, told the Associated Press that he saw smoke coming from the crater when he go to the scene of the crash Sunday.

"My first impression is that, yes, it was a meteorite," he said. "All the evidence suggests this when compared to pictures of real meteorite craters."

He also said the 33-foot-wide crater's rim was slightly raised and it features a blackish gray scar on the bottom, which provide further proof that it was a meteorite crash.

However, during a press conference at the crash site on Monday, University of Latvia expert Ilgonis Vilks, said he had doubts about whether or not the crash was caused by a meteorite.

"At this time, we don't think it was a meteorite," said Vilks.