Bungling rocket men came under fire yesterday after a 12 foot missile malfunctioned seconds after launch and embedded itself in the back garden of a family home.
Boffins launched the blue-finned projectile over the quiet Mendip Hills after clearing the flight with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the nearby Bristol International Airport.
It was expected to fly 3,800 feet into the atmosphere before it deployed a parachute and floated back to earth.
But the rocket failed thousands of feet up in the air and, after splitting in two, hurtled back to earth at up to 100mph.
Shocked villagers in the rural parish of Wedmore, Somerset, took cover as the rogue missile smashed into the ground – missing a young family’s home by 12 feet.
Father-of-two Martin Corkish was working on the extension to his home in Clewer, near Wedmore, Somerset, when he heard the rocket’s seven-foot tail end slam into his garden turf.
Building contractor Martin, 36, said his two young children – aged just two years and nine months old – could have been killed.
He said: ”I heard a whistling sound in the air and seven feet of rocket landed in my garden, missing myself and our house, where my wife and young children were inside.
”Four feet of the missile is still embedded in my garden. I was extremely angry and went and found the people who launched it.
”Words were exchanged and they told me they had every right to fire it. But it could have landed anywhere – and if it had hit anybody it would have killed them outright.”
Farmer’s wife Wendy Major and son Chris, 16, saw the other half of the rocket parachute into their field of cows just half-a-mile away.
Stunned Wendy, 45, dragged the remains, which were bleeping and spilling out wire, 100 yards from the field to the farmyard.
Her husband Phil Major, said: ”When I came back from milking there was this rocket in the middle of the yard.
”Someone phoned the police and they said it was not an explosive and had a tracking device and had been traced to a man from Canterbury.
”Surely questions should be asked about national security if these things can be fired off like this?”
The rocket was one of two fired from a portable scaffold by a group of 10 rocket enthusiasts on Cheddar Moor at 11am on Sunday morning.
Group member Richard Brown, from Canterbury, told how outraged Martin Corkish literally went ballistic when the team arrived to collect the errant projectile.
Richard, 42, said: ”It was a worst-case scenario. The person who came up to us when we went to retrieve it threatened physical violence.
”We realised it was the heat of the moment and understood. Rocketry is a very safe hobby, and obviously we take every safety procedure, but we do have £10 million of public liability insurance.
”Yesterday our event was cleared with the Civil Aviation Authority and Bristol Airport traffic control.
”We are responsible people but unfortunately on this occasion something went wrong with the rocket, which was built from a kit from America. It didn’t split properly.
”The rear section, which weighs around 10 kilos, would have been travelling at up to 100 miles an hour when it came down.”
Richard Brown designed the 12-foot, 110lb ‘Corpulent Stump’ heralded as the largest amateur rocket ever built in 2007.
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they were looking into the incident and had spoken to the Health and Safety Executive.