KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – It was an unspoken fact that the United Space Alliance (USA) worker that fell to his death on March 14 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida – had in fact committed suicide. This was known since the day of the incident, but was not revealed until almost two months after his death.
The incident took place with the space shuttle Endeavour on the pad; the orbiter was being prepared for her final mission – STS-134.
James Vanover took his own life when he jumped from Launch Complex 39 – the USA contractor fell some 130 feet. Paramedics tried to revive him, but were unsuccessful. These details among others were included in a report just released by the Brevard County Medical Examiner.
Although numerous reasons have been given as to why Vanover committed suicide the report states that it was due to the fact that he was upset about going blind. Vanover had worked at KSC for almost 30 years; he spent the last half of that with USA where he worked as an engineer on the structure’s swing arm.
After his death, all activity ceased at LC39A for a day and counseling was offered to KSC workers. According to NASA this is the first fatality at the pad since 1981 when two workers died preparing the space shuttle Columbia for her maiden voyage.
According to Central Florida News 13 despite the revelation of the cause of Vanover’s death, USA has not offered any comments on the incident other than to say that it was cooperating in the ongoing investigation and working to assist coworkers impacted by the death.
With the end of the shuttle era and the cancellation of what was to be the successor program, Constellation, USA has been forced to lay off many of the skilled technicians that have kept the American human spaceflight going for 30 years.Missions » ISS »