Mystery object hits center

From: http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/May-24-Wed-2006/news/7572899.html

Substance to be sent to UNLV for analysis

By K.C. HOWARD REVIEW-JOURNAL

Mike Gorman of Hoyco Construction carries down a rock that he pulled out of a wall Tuesday at Diagnostic Imaging Southern Nevada. The object tore through a skylight Saturday night and embedded in the wall. Photos by John Locher.

On Saturday night, an unidentified object was sent hurtling through the roof at Steven Gleicher's workplace.

Was the football-sized object a meteor or perhaps something more common?

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And perhaps just as puzzling: How could it rip through a thick pane of fiberglass strong enough to hold a human being and then embed itself into a wall?

"It could just be a large piece of asphalt because it is grey on the outside and black in the middle," said Gleicher, an administrator at Diagnostic Imaging Southern Nevada, at 3560 E. Flamingo Road, near Pecos Road.

He was called into the center at about 1 a.m. Sunday, after the object crashed into the office and set off the fire alarm. He and firefighters inspected the place and, having found no smoke or flames, left.

It was the cleaning crew later that morning who noticed bits of dry wall on the floor below the skylight 20 feet above them. They looked up and saw the rock lodged into the dry wall about 18 feet up. It was right next to the fire alarm.

Gleicher said he went up on the rooftop of the center -- the former dwelling of a homeless man -- and found two other pieces of similar rock, one about three inches wide, the other about six.

A smooth surface on one side of the rocks looks man- made, and other jagged sides suggest layers of a road.

"At this point, it's unknown what the rock is," Gleicher said.

The skylight is double-paned fiberglass and is strong enough to walk on.

"Obviously, it came through with a lot of force," said Larry Ginsberg, a clinical engineer at the center.

Micheline Cerboni, who works in accounts receivable at the center, said she didn't notice the destruction Monday until she heard co-workers talking about it.

"Some things I didn't think were possible, some things are," she said of the various hypotheses hurtling about.

"I don't have any ideas."

A construction crew removed the object Tuesday, and Gleicher said he planned to take it to an expert at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"Our roof is accessible. We have thrown people off of our roof before. I just don't think a human could throw these rocks through with enough force to land and embed itself in the wall," Gleicher said, noting there is no building construction nearby.

He said he had recently listened to a radio show about meteor activity during this time of year and thought it might be an object from space.

He called Clay Crow, a UNLV geoscience professor, who said the object's description didn't sound like a meteor.

Gleicher's theory is that the rock might have fallen off a plane. Toilet waste that leaks from planes descends in the form of ice, but lucky for Gleicher his falling object isn't melting.

"It could be a piece of the runway that may have been kicked up into the plane's landing gear," he said.

But a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman thought that highly unlikely. If the rock had been attached somehow to the plane's wheel base, the aircraft probably would have had difficulty using its retractable landing gear, said Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman.

"I haven't heard of anything like this happening before," he said.

Based on the description of events, he said, it sounds like the object would have had to fall from a very high altitude. Heavier planes that fly at such levels usually land on concrete runways that can handle the extra weight, Kenitzer said.

"It's definitely not concrete," Gleicher said.

McCarran International Airport has four runways, one of which is concrete, another that is being resurfaced in concrete. The two remaining runways are half concrete and half asphalt, said Elaine Sanchez, the airport's spokeswoman.

In the two years she has worked for the airport, she has never heard of an object falling from a plane.

Gleicher said he's confident his insurance will cover the damage.

"I suppose if it's a meteor they could consider it an act of God," he said.