Bright Light Over Bethel: Could It Be ‘Space Junk’?

Front Page / Dec. 24, 2009 11:38am EST

A bright fast-moving object in the night sky on Saturday Dec. 19 appeared to end with a flash of flame in the vicinity of Bethel, a former pilot told The Herald last week.

“It was incredibly interesting when it happened,” said Lee Minkler of Charlotte, who makes no claim to knowing just what “it” was.

He was driving north on I-89 and had just begun the descent to Exit 3 at 5:30 p.m., he said. As he drove, he saw an “incredibly brilliant white light appear” traveling at enormous speed from the right of his vision to the center-left in just a few seconds.

It seemed “really close,” he said, and could have been a meteorite. As it passed directly to the front, however, it put on a dramatic display. It seemed to change from being a round ball to a vertical leading edge trailing a “sheet of flame” behind it.

At that point, Minkler said, he thought it could be an airplane on fire, so bright were the flames, but then he decided not. Then suddenly it disappeared “like somebody turned a light bulb off.”

He is sure that others on the Interstate saw it, because cars around him slowed down, he said. And it should have been visible from Route 107, too. In fact, he said, he saw a police cruiser traveling east to west with its blue lights on.

However, no reports of such an object ever were received at the Royalton Barracks, said Capt. Ray Keefe this week.

He did remember, however, that the evening included a spectacular meteorite shower.

Minkler doesn’t think it was a meteorite, though it might have been an actual meteor. A more likely scenario, he said, would be a piece of “space junk” falling to earth.

If so, he thinks, it ought to be somewhere around Bethel.

The Charlotte man pointed out that he has spent a lot of time “looking at the sky.” He has been a pilot, he said, and worked for the NORAD defense system for years in the late 60s.

He’s hoping that somebody else saw he phenomenon, too. Anyone interested may contact him at

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