Local law enforcement officials haven't closed the books on identifying the cause of a fireball in the skies of Cherokee County May 5, but they're no longer actively searching for its origin.

Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management Director Gary Dotson said Thursday that search efforts have been called off. Emergency services personnel searched Tuesday and Wednesday, without success.

Dotson had said a Woodall firefighter reported seeing the fireball as it plummeted to the ground.

Eric Wichman, a private researcher for Meteorites USA, a California organization, said the idea that the fireball may have been a plane or helicopter hasn't been completely ruled out. He said, however, that eyewitnesses he spoke to have said it didn't sound like an aircraft.

"It's possible it could have been a meteor fireball," Wichman said. "The witnesses said it was high in the sky and below the cloud cover. They said it was moving southwest to northeast."

Wichman talked to Dotson and representatives with other law enforcement agencies, as well as some private citizens. He said his organization is looking for other witnesses who may have seen the fireball.

"If it was a plane, we'd like to know so we can find it," he said. "We need to know if anyone heard a sonic boom right at the time it they saw it. Another question is whether debris was seen falling to the ground."

He said sounds that a witness heard when the fireball was spotted will help determine whether it was a meteor.

One witness reported seeing smoke around the fireball, but another saw no smoke.

"Usually, a meteor fireball will break apart when it hits the ground," Wichman explained. "Nine out of 10 of them are not hot when they hit the ground."

They are usually heavier than earth rock and are typically magnetic, due to a high iron content.

Wichman said the meteor fireball is harmless if someone approaches it lying on the ground.

"About the only way they can hurt is if they fall on you," he said.