Four Kootenay fisherman drifting near the Balfour ferry terminal at 6 a.m. on Saturday were just starting out for the day when one of the occupants saw a blinding flash in the sky accompanied by a momentary streak that slammed into a mountain across the way.
“I don’t think it was as big as a car. It flashed and made a bright streak, but it went out before it hit the mountain. I was waiting for the smoke, but it didn’t come,” said one occupant of the boat.
Only after the fact did the witness make the connection between the sighting and widespread reports of a thunder-like boom that was heard in Nelson, Rossland, Castlegar, Trail and many communities in between.
“We didn’t hear the sound, maybe because the motor was running in the boat. There were four of us, but only one saw it,” said Harry Popoff.
The witness, who didn’t want to be identified, said at first he thought he might be hallucinating.
“There was an extreme bright light coming across the sky and it went out before it hit the mountain. Later there was another person talking about it in another boat, so I didn’t feel so bad about maybe hallucinating. It was seen by somebody else, not only me.”
Previously members of Farm the Kootenays speculated online about the source of the boom.
Seismologist Taimi Mulder told the Star it’s most likely the sound was caused by a military aircraft or a meteorite. The Arietids meteor shower, which happens annually between May and July, may be responsible.
“When you hear the noise associated, the rock has to enter through the atmosphere which leaves a trail of light and creates a sonic boom. But it’s harder to see during daylight,” said Mulder.
The witness said that sounds precisely like what he saw.
Another hypothesis came from Rod Koochin, who told the Star a logging company near Salmo was blasting at approximately that time.
The Star has received multiple tips and leads about the boom, and will continue to investigate.