Carmela Caccavo was tossing and turning in bed at her Mississauga, Ont., home on Wednesday morning when she was jolted to her senses by a terrifying wake-up call: the crash and bang of a block of ice ramming at speed through the roof and coming to a rest inside her walk-in closet.
Later in the day, after Caccavo’s husband, Tony Caccavo, turned his car around and rushed home from work, after they bagged some of the ice to explain the damages to their insurers, after the insurance company sent workers to fix the two-foot hole in the roof and assured the Caccavos most of the costs would be covered, the family got to calculating the distance that had separated them from tragedy: about two metres from the ice’s point of impact to the bed.
At 6:30 a.m., though, half-asleep and convinced at first that something had fallen down the stairs, Carmela, 62, merely wanted to know what had happened. Her 24-year-old son, Michael Caccavo, ran over from the next room. They peered inside the closet, where Carmela and Tony’s clothes were soaked and ceiling insulation was strewn on the hardwood floor.
Carmela phoned Tony, who had left the house a half-hour earlier. Wondering if the weather outside was stormy, Michael stepped out the front door a little while later. He looked up and saw the outline of a plane in the clear sky.
“I have a strong feeling (the ice) came down from a plane,” Carmela said in an interview. “We have no other explanation.”
Since the Caccavos live about 20 kilometres south of Toronto’s Pearson Airport, flight traffic commonly passes straight above their heads. The family has grown accustomed to the noise, and Tony said the planes were never bothersome before Wednesday, when, they think, one discharged the solid five-pound boulder that split into pieces when it landed inside their home.
If the ice did, indeed, drop from a plane, it was likely caused by a leak in the drain system that is used to remove wastewater from an aircraft after landing, said Larry Vance, a former longtime civil aviation inspector with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Last year, airplane toilet water was suspected of forming blocks of ice that fell in an Indian village and tore through the roof of a Scottish grandmother’s home.
Despite the plausibility of this scenario, a resolution to the Mississauga mystery may prove elusive. Tony said the Caccavos aren’t planning to report the incident to any authority.
“Nobody got hurt, and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “We just want to forget about it. We want to go ahead with life.”
For its part, the Transportation Safety Board said any potential investigation into the incident would be conducted by Transport Canada, the federal department in charge of setting transportation policies.
Transport Canada confirmed that it hadn’t been contacted, saying in a statement that departmental officials investigate every incident that is reported to them.
“If it is determined (in such an investigation) that the ice came from an aircraft, the department will try to identify the carrier to ensure the problem is rectified,” the statement said.
Pearson Airport’s online plane tracker shows a Boeing 767-300 travelling from Las Vegas is estimated to have flown over the Caccavos’ neighbourhood at 6:29 a.m. on Wednesday at an altitude of nearly 6,000 feet. Two planes flying from Vegas landed at Pearson shortly after: a WestJet flight around 6:53 a.m. and an Air Canada flight around 6:56 a.m.
A WestJet spokesperson wrote in an email that the airline only flies Boeing 767-300 planes on European trips, adding, “We are glad to hear that the family involved in the incident are safe. WestJet has not heard from the TSB and we have had no reported incidents.”
Air Canada, meantime, said maintenance checks revealed there were no issues with any plane the company had in the air on Wednesday.
“I can also tell you that after reviewing our operations from January 9, we determined our aircraft were a considerable distance from the location of this incident at the time it reportedly occurred, according to established flight data,” a spokesperson said via email.
Speaking over the phone from home on Thursday afternoon, Carmela said she’d felt shaky for most of the previous day, but had since grown thankful for her good fortune. She and her husband still had to wash their clothes and scrub clean the closet and bedroom floor, but it was all a matter of placing the ordeal in proper perspective.
If anything, Tony said, they now have a reason to figure out which items in the closet they don’t really need.
“I have a second chance in my life,” Carmela said. “You never know, right? It could have been worse.”
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