Fifteen years ago Bob Harvey was found dead on a platform near the top of a Titan rocket with a six inch gash in the back of his head. How had he died? Some unusual events following his death have created unsolved mysteries.
Breach of health and safety
Bob was a rocket fuel expert working on the NASA moon probe and following programmes. He was clearly a valued member of the team from his many commendations for his outstanding work. Bob had arrived at work at Cape Canaveral, Florida at the appointed time of 3 pm to start his shift to make last minute adjustments to the fuelling system. It was essential that the job was completed before dark. Unfortunately his colleague refused to go up top with him stating he needed to complete his paperwork. No amount of persuasion that the job should come first and the paperwork afterwards could influence him to join Bob. There was no choice, Bob had to go on his own, which was strictly illegal under Florida health and safety rules. Bob had to lift a bottle of nitrogen weighing some 178 pounds in slippery conditions onto a trolley – it rained very heavily every day at about 3 pm at Cape Canaveral. That is the last definite information there is about the fate of Bob Harvey.
Found by paramedics
At 5.15 pm he was found by paramedics lying on his back with a six inch gash in his head; they attempted to resuscitate him - to no avail, he was dead. They took him by ambulance to the hospital taking some 30 minutes, which seems amazing considering the high profile and dangerous activities at the Cape. The authorities telephoned his wife, Yvonne, to come to the hospital without divulging what had happened. She arrived and was deeply shocked to discover he had died at work while working near the top of the rocket. After she had recovered a little from the trauma, she wanted to know how he had died, only to be met with a wall of silence. The funeral was arranged and a massive crowd attended, including Bob’s erstwhile colleague, who fell to his knees in front of Yvonne and in floods of tears said, “I am so sorry, so sorry.”
There is deep mystery surrounding Bob’s shoes. Before the funeral, all the clothes he was wearing were returned to Yvonne, but not his shoes. She asked about the shoes, but was unable to obtain any information. It was only weeks later with the help of her attorney that she able to recover his shoes, which were now in pristine condition. The shoes could have been a key element in solving the mystery of what had happened, alas the unmarked condition of the shoes could solve nothing and only created more suspicion. Why had it taken weeks to return Bob’s shoes, and why were they in such pristine condition?
After the funeral, Yvonne was presented with the American flag flown for the launch of the shuttle Columbia. The flag is an historic item. It is this flag and other items including a signed photograph by Pete Conrad, the third man to walk on the moon, that are for sale at Grand Auctions in Folkestone, Kent on 19th September.
No cameras working
The Columbia flag presented to Yvonne and Bob was given a ‘brick’ in the ‘Spacewalk of Honour’. Alas none of these marks of respect and honour answered Yvonne’s question, ‘How did he die?’. A fortnight after Bob’s death his death certificate arrived stating he had died of natural causes. Interestingly the certificate states he died as an in patient. Why? He had died at the Cape and his death had been confirmed to Yvonne by the ambulance crew. After many of Bob’s colleagues told her there was something very fishy about the whole affair, she hired an attorney to attempt to discover the truth. Astonishingly they were informed the security cameras were not working on that day and therefore they could not say. This information beggars belief. NASA had a strict policy of keeping the cameras on twenty four hours a day every day in such a high profile site. Eventually she was offered $15,000 compensation, a derisory sum, which was later increased to $50,000. She was unable to cash in his life policy, which only covered accidental death. No cameras, no possibility of proving how he died!
This is a shocking tale of either incompetence or a cover up to avoid the large sums in compensation for negligence that would have been due. Either way, the authorities at NASA do not come out of this with their reputations untarnished, and Yvonne’s life was traumatically altered for ever. Her hair turned white over night with the shock and helplessness in the face of a big, powerful organisation.
- Posted by Jonathan Riley