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Space Agency Engineer Dies Of Self-Inflicted Wound

June 12, 1986

TRINITY, Ala. (AP) _ A NASA engineer who worked on projects related to the shuttle Challenger shot himself to death, but there is no evidence the death was job-related, authorities said Wednesday.

Mike Clemons, 46, died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head in a bedroom of his home Monday afternoon, said Lawrence County Chief Deputy Richard Turner. The death was ruled an apparent suicide, Turner said.

Clemons’ death occurred about the time the Rogers commission report on the Jan. 28 Challenger disaster was released in public broadcasts. But authorities said Clemons, who had tested materials used in the critical O-rings of the shuttle’s rocket boosters, left no indication that his death was job-related.

″There was a note left,″ Turner said. ″We have not divulged what was in it, except there was no mention of his job. We have nothing to indicate his job had anything to do with it.″

Clemons, who was married with three children, was buried Wednesday.

Bob Ruhl, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Huntsville, said Clemons worked with the space agency for 20 years, leaving for three years in the 1960s to serve in the military during the Vietnam War.

Clemons ″was not directly involved in work on the O-rings,″ described by the commission as defective and a cause of the Challenger explosion, Ruhl said.

Clemons was involved in analyzing materials used in O-rings and recently had been working with a NASA rocket motor redesign team, Ruhl said.

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