tampabay.com

Celestial chunk of ice makes landing on Mustang

By Kevin Graham
Published January 29, 2007


TAMPA - When Raymond Rodriguez describes the sound, he clenches both fists and puckers his mouth to whistle while keeping his teeth closed.

It was loud.

It was fast.

It fell from the sky and hit the Ford Mustang parked on the edge of his lawn with such force that the back windshield blew out and the car bounced 3 feet into the air.

The culprit: an 18-inch block of falling ice, possibly from an airplane.

"I was scared," said Rodriguez, who was in his driveway changing a tire on a different car just feet away and saw the whole thing. "It's crazy, man!"

Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, the pristine piece of debris fell squarely onto the roof of the red car. No one was injured in the cul de sac of Hilldrop Court in Town 'N Country, where passers-by drove to see the damaged automobile.

"It's just a freak accident," said Mike Young, a neighbor who salvaged a 5-pound chunk of the ice and put it in his freezer.

It's there in case "anybody needs to look at it," Young said.

And if nothing else, "It's a souvenir," he said.

Andres Javage, 20, of Tampa drives the car. He spent time at the Rodriguez home late Saturday but caught a ride home with someone else, said Danny Rodriguez, a friend of Javage.

Javage declined to comment on the situation, but his father, Carlos Javage, had come to the same conclusion as the residents on Hilldrop Court.

"The only conclusion I come to is that ice fell from an airplane," Carlos Javage said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency is "looking into it."

"We have some of our inspectors trying to determine what aircraft it might have come from," Brown said. "They're trying to look at the scheduled flights that went through there. So, they're trying to track back to see."

Residents of the Timberlane subdivision where the ice fell say their homes sit in the flight path of Tampa International Airport.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said initial reports about the ice indicated its dimensions were 18 inches square.

"This is like something from the movies," Danny Rodriguez said.

When the first deputy arrived on the scene, Danny Rodriguez said he could hear him on his cell phone saying, "I'm not making this up."

Friends didn't believe Danny Rodriguez, either, he said, until he started text messaging photos he had taken with his camera phone.

Brown, the FAA spokeswoman, said the icy projectile that fell was out of the ordinary. Sometimes, she said, chunks of blue ice may fall from an aircraft after a blockage in a lavatory has come unclogged. Instances where clean pieces of ice fall from the outside of an aircraft tend to happen in the North, she said.

Earlier this month, an engine part fell from a plane flying over Chicago and almost landed on a woman as she slept in her bed.

Brown called incidents of objects falling from airplanes "relatively rare." She said investigators expected to know more today about the origins of the ice that fell on Town 'N Country.

Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

Ice from the sky

Oct. 22: Des Plaines, Ill.

Two men see a block of blue ice 2 feet by 3 feet fall from the sky after a plane passes overhead. It lands in the street and smashes into pieces. It's believed to be from a leak in the plane's lavatory tanks.

April: Oakland and Loma Linda, Calif.

In Oakland on April 8, a chunk hits a field, forming a crater about 2 feet wide. In Loma Linda on April 13, a chunk the size of a microwave oven plummets through the roof of a recreation center. Because the ice was white, authorities said they weren't sure whether it was from a plane or natural.

February 2003: Santa Cruz, Calif.

On Feb. 12, a chunk of blue ice hits a 40-foot boat in Santa Cruz harbor, smashing a skylight. On Jan. 19, a basketball-sized piece crashes through a bedroom roof.

Oct. 22, 2002: Lititz, Pa.

A 30-pound chunk of white ice falls into a yard. Witnesses said it sounded like the whoosh of a Fourth of July rocket.