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- The government did not kill an Ohio man who claimed to have invented a water-powered car. He died of a brain aneurysm caused by high blood pressure.
A decades-old conspiracy theory claiming the Pentagon assassinated an Ohio inventor resurfaced recently thanks to a widely circulating Facebook post.
The May 25 post includes a nearly one-minute video showing a man reacting to an old news broadcast from the now-defunct WTVN-TV in Columbus, Ohio. The broadcast is a segment on a local man named Stanley Meyer showing off what he claimed was a water-powered car that he invented.
"Imagine if we all had water powered cars," the caption on the post says. "Pentagon killed this man."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The post alludes to the theory that Meyer’s death in 1998 was due not to natural causes but to an assassination by the government to suppress his invention. But there’s no evidence of that.
In the credulous WTVN broadcast, a reporter said an official from the Pentagon had visited Meyer to check on his invention. That statement has helped fuel suspicions that the government had something to do with his death.
In an email to PolitiFact, a Pentagon spokesperson said the agency doesn’t have any information on Meyer or his death.
Meyer was an inventor with no formal scientific background who claimed to have developed a "water fuel cell" that could be used instead of gasoline to power a car.
The fuel cell purportedly worked by breaking down the water into hydrogen and oxygen, and using the hydrogen to power the car. Meyer claimed during the broadcast his fuel cell could run on "rain water, well water, city water, ocean water."
However, it was unclear how his fuel cell would be able to split the water into its component elements, as Meyer also claimed the process required a fraction of the energy it would normally take to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Such a technology would have had to to defy the first and second laws of thermodynamics in order to work, according to Nature magazine, which dismissed the idea of water as fuel as a long-running myth. Energy cannot be created or destroyed and, when energy is transformed from one form to another, its final state cannot be greater than its initial state, unless energy is added to the system. (Some newly developed electric vehicles use a hydrogen-powered fuel cell to produce electricity, and emit only water vapor.)
Meyer claimed that the U.S. government was interested in his water fuel cell. His twin brother, Stephen, reported that he and Meyer were dining with potential foreign investors at a Cracker Barrel in Ohio on March 20, 1998, when Stanley Meyer suddenly felt a jolt of pain in his neck, according to the Columbus Dispatch. As Stanley Meyer rushed out of the restaurant, he told his brother "they poisoned me" and, once outside, fell to the ground and died at the age of 57.
Because of the suddenness of his death and Meyer’s dying declaration, the police investigation into the incident took three months, according to the paper. However, no evidence of foul play was ever discovered.
The Franklin County coroner's office determined Meyer had high blood pressure and died of a brain aneurysm, the Dispatch reported. The only drugs found in his system were lidocaine and phenytoin — seizure medication.
High blood pressure is one of the risk factors associated with a brain aneurysm, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of an aneurysm include a sudden headache, stiff neck, vomiting and seizures.
The coroner’s report obtained by the Dispatch initially described Meyer’s dining companions as officers from NATO. One of the investors with Meyer at the time of his death, Philippe Vandemoortele, told a Netherlands blog in 2020 that he doesn't know why he was identified as a NATO officer or how rumors that Meyer had been deliberately killed started.
"I have some doubts about whether his death happened by chance, but I know nothing more than anyone else," he told the blog. "What is certain is that I didn’t kill him, he was my friend and I even paid his bills the week before."
A Facebook post said Stanley Meyer, a man who claimed to have invented a water-powered car, was killed by the Pentagon.
Meyer claimed he was poisoned moments before he died in 1998, fueling speculation that his death was suspicious. But a police investigation found no evidence of foul play, and his death was ruled the result of a brain aneurysm brought on in part by high blood pressure.
We rate this claim False.
Facebook post, May 25, 2021
Email with the Department of Defense, June 2, 2021
YouTube, Water Powered Cars, Aug. 8, 2015
Nature, "Burning water and other myths," Sept. 14, 2007
Khan Academy, The laws of thermodynamics, accessed June 2, 2021
The Columbus Dispatch, "The car that ran on water," July 8, 2007
The Columbus Dispatch website via Internet Archive Wayback Machine, "The car that ran on water," July 8, 2007
Mayo Clinic, Brain aneurysm, Aug. 9, 2019
Pepijn van Erp, "Stanley Meyer, the inventor of the water-powered car, was not killed by Belgian investors," Nov. 10, 2020
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