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Former astronaut charged with murder after car crash kills two girls

Published 07/06/2016

James Halsell Jr's career included five space shuttle flights starting in July 1994 (AP)
James Halsell Jr's career included five space shuttle flights starting in July 1994 (AP)

A former astronaut has been charged with murder after a car crash killed two girls in Alabama.

State police said 59-year-old James Halsell Jr, of Huntsville, was arrested after a crash that killed 11-year-old Niomi Deona James and 13-year-old Jayla Latrick Parler.

Officers said a car driven by Halsell collided with a Ford Fiesta in which the girls were passengers. Both victims were thrown from the vehicle and died. Two others were injured.

Police said a preliminary investigation indicates alcohol and speed may have been factors.

An online Nasa biography says Halsell went to work in the aerospace industry in 2006 after a career that included five space shuttle flights starting in July 1994.

Later, a spokesman for the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office, lieutenant Andy Norris, said Halsell was released on 150,000 US dollars (£103,000) bond.

He said Halsell was freed about 6.30pm on Monday, nearly 16 hours after the crash.

Selected as an astronaut in 1990, Halsell spent more than 1,250 hours in space. The Louisiana native and one-time test pilot commanded three shuttle flights and served as pilot on two others, according to the space agency.

Halsell led Nasa's return-to-flight planning team for the space shuttle after Columbia disintegrated during re-entry in 2003.

Following his retirement from Nasa a decade ago, Halsell worked for ATK Launch Systems, Utah, according to his Nasa biography.

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From Belfast Telegraph