Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Frozen sewage from passing plane suspected cause of hole in Nepean home: Woman woke to 'giant crashing noise,' hole in roof metres from bed

An Ottawa woman believes a chunk of frozen sewage plummeted from a passing aircraft and punched a hole through the roof of her mother's Nepean home early Sunday morning, just metres from where she lay sleeping.

Stephanie Moore had just returned from a trip to Cuba when she says she was awakened at 2 a.m. on Sunday by a "giant crashing noise." 

The 36-year-old teacher with the Ottawa Catholic School Board jumped out of bed, turned on a light and soon discovered a gaping hole in the ceiling of the hallway outside the bedroom where she had been sleeping.

"My head was only about 12 or 15 feet away," said Moore.

She quickly discovered pink insulation, drywall ceiling material and shattered bits of wood on the hallway floor, along with a puddle of water. Moore immediately called the insurance company. 

'Went right through roof'

The light of day revealed a hole about one metre in diameter in the hall ceiling, with insulation, drywall and wood hanging precariously from the large gash.

Photographs taken in the attic also show damage to the roof planking and the shingles, and daylight can be seen shining through the hole.

"At first I thought it was just damage to the ceiling. I couldn't tell it went right through the roof when I first saw it," Moore said.

Moore said both her insurance adjuster and the roof repair expert who came to her mother's home Sunday called it "the strangest thing they have ever seen."

There's no evidence to suggest that a tree or branch caused the damage and there was no ice or snow on the roof when it happened.

The roofing specialist who inspected the damage said there was no rotting wood in the roof, and that before the incident, at least, the exterior shell of Moore's mother's house was solid.

'Blue ice' suspected

It's the roofer who suggested "blue ice" as the likeliest source of the damage, since a meteorite strike — though it might cause similar damage — would leave behind a rock or mineral element in the debris.

Blue ice, named for the colour of the disinfectant used in the sewage systems of commercial aircraft, is the term for frozen waste that can leak and break away from planes while they're aloft.  

Though pilots don't have the ability to intentionally release the holding tanks of onboard lavatories, leaks are possible and the mixture of human waste and liquid disinfectant that freezes in the cold air of high altitude can plummet earthward like a frozen bomb.

The roofer who inspected Moore's mother's home said blue ice has been known to strike homes and then melt on impact, leaving little evidence as to the cause of the damage.

In 2008, the Transportation Safety Board concluded that ice that crashed through roof of a Calgary woman's home had come from an airplane flying overhead.

Moore said she plans to call the Transportation Safety Board about the damage. The home is in the Merivale Road and Viewmount Drive area of Nepean, about three kilometres northwest of the Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport.

That proximity, along with the absence of any other obvious explanation for the damage and the fact that her childhood home is under several flight paths has Moore convinced that blue ice is indeed the cause.

Transport Canada 'looking into' incident

Transport Canada said in a statement Tuesday the ministry was aware of the incident and is looking into it.

"The department takes all reports of possible debris coming from aircraft very seriously. Every reported incident is investigated by Transport Canada officials," said spokesperson Natasha Gauthier.

Canadian Aviation Regulations prohibit creating a hazard by dropping an object from an aircraft in flight, according to Transport Canada. 

Moore checked the flight tracking software where she determined that the only plane flying above her Nepean home at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning was a courier aircraft registered to the the logistics and shipping company DHL, which is a division of Deutsche Post DHL Group. She hasn't reached out to DHL.

Moore has preserved some of the wood fragments from the roof so that they might be analyzed, and she has also saved some of the water that leaked through the hole for about five minutes following the initial impact in the hopes that it will help determine if the strike was from frozen lavatory water.

Workers added a temporary repair patch to Moore's house on Sunday and the repair company was set to provide an estimate on Tuesday for the cost of repairing a substantial section of the roof.

Moore has been told to expect a bill "in the thousands," since planking, shingles, insulation and drywall all need to be replaced, though she said she's confident her mother's insurance company will cover the cost of repairs.

Moore said though the incident has left her shaken, it could have been worse. For now, the teacher says she's trying to make the most of the unusual event. 

"I teach kids Grades 2 and 3 and I told them the story today and they were completely enthralled by it. They said, 'It's aliens!'"

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