7 Astronauts Killed in Explosion of Columbia Craft

Residents of Nacogdoches Texas report finding debris, including an arm and a hand, presumably from the ill-fated Columbia space shuttle that broke up about 200,000 feet above central Texas minutes before its scheduled landing. US officials are indicating the seven are most likely dead as a result of the shuttle breaking up before landing.

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Residents of Nacogdoches Texas report finding debris, including an arm and a hand, presumably from the ill-fated Columbia space shuttle that broke up about 200,000 feet above central Texas minutes before its scheduled landing. US officials are indicating the seven are most likely dead as a result of the shuttle breaking up before landing. US law enforcement officials are calling on residents to "stay away" fearing some of the debris may be toxic. Search-and-rescue officials in Dallas and Fort Worth have been activated after hearing of the tragic event. Air force F16s are flying over Texas using special radar to track the location and extent of the shuttle debris which is scattered for miles.

US President George W. Bush is heading back to the White House from Camp David by motorcade. He is unable to fly due to inclement weather. Mr. Bush has already spoken with senior advisors and experts, and terrorism is not suspected. White House Security Chief Tom Ridge and other officials are already on hand, as is National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Experts are explaining that due to the 200,000 feet altitude of the shuttle when it lost contact, and the speed it was traveling, terrorism has all but been ruled out.

US officials have contacted lower level government personnel in Jerusalem but President Bush has not yet contacted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon or Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The crew was made up of shuttle commander Rick D. Husband, pilot William C. McCool, payload commander Michael P. Anderson, mission specialists David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark, and Israel's first astronaut air force Colonel Ilan Ramon.

US government officials have informed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that terrorism is not suspected in the tragic mishap.


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