Former Astronaut Capt. Alan Poindexter dead at 50

The former commander of space shuttles Atlantis and Discovery passed away as the result of a watercraft accident

WRITTEN BY: Scott Hixson
Capt. Alan Poindexter passed away Sunday
Image Source: donjd2 via Flickr
Capt. Alan Poindexter passed away Sunday

Capt. Alan Poindexter, 50, the former NASA astronaut who led space shuttle Discovery’s second-to-last mission, passed away Sunday following a water scooter crash involving his sons near Pensacola Beach, Fla.

Capt. Alan Poindexter was aboard a watercraft when a separate water scooter piloted by his 26-year-old son, Zachary, collided into the back of his craft.

“They were both moving and for some reason Capt. Poindexter stopped his watercraft, and Zachary for some reason didn’t see him stop,” said Stan Kirkland, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Zachary’s watercraft went up and struck Capt. Poindexter.”

The former astronaut’s 22-year-old son Samuel was aboard the craft with his father when it was struck. The two were both thrown into the water where a boat picked up Capt. Poindexter and took him to shore. He was conscious and complaining of rib injuries but lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Capt. Alan Poindexter had been vacationing in Florida’s Panhandle, an area his family has close ties to. The accident occurred in a bay between Pensacola Beach and Gulf Breeze. Capt. Poindexter’s wife, Lisa, is from Gulf Breeze, and Pensacola was the sight of his flight training after college.

No charges have been filed, according to Kirkland, and the medical examiner has yet to determine an exact cause of death.

“He was a passionate, caring and selfless individual who will be missed by all,” said former astronaut Leland Melvin in a statement released by NASA. Melvin served in the astronaut corps with Capt. Alan Poindexter. The two flew together in 2008. Melvin is now an associate administrator for NASA.

Capt. Alan Poindexter joined the astronaut corps in 1998, a decade before he flew his first mission as a pilot aboard Atlantis’ mission to install the Columbus laboratory at the International Space Station.

Capt. Poindexter also commanded the space shuttle Discovery’s second-to-last mission in April 2010.

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