Block of ice falls from sky, smashes through roof

It came from the sky - a block of ice the size of a rugby ball falling with enough force to smash straight through Jan Robertson's roof last night. Plummeting at an estimated 450km/h, it punctured the concrete tile roof, the ceiling gib and a light socket before landing on the kitchen bench.

"There was this terrific bang like goodness knows what," she told the Herald. "I could have been in there cutting up vegetables." It was just before 5pm and Mrs Robertson, 80, was cleaning a bedroom in her Meadowbank house while her 83-year-old husband, Bruce, was outside pulling weeds - both just metres
from where the ice-block hit. They each ran to check that the other was okay and found the ice on the bench.

"It was like all hell breaking loose," Mr Robertson said. His wife added: "There was debris on the toaster, on the kettle - it was everywhere." The couple dialled 111. Fireman John Sweeney said they were sceptical "until we saw it for ourselves". Mr Sweeney estimated that the block weighed between 3kg and 5kg. Firefighters first thought it might have fallen from an aircraft or was a climatic phenomenon.

He said the block must have come from high up and was "bloody travelling" because it crashed through the roof as clean as a knife. It is not the first time the neighbourhood has been hit. The Robertsons' neighbour, Pat Theobald, said ice fell on her house last week "and there wasn't a cloud in the sky". Mrs Robertson said she believed it fell from an aircraft. "Where else could it come from?" The east Auckland couple say they often hear aircraft overhead.

Niwa climate scientist Jim Salinger said it was very unlikely to be a natural hailstone because of its size and the lack of others around. "It sounds like an aircraft got some icing on it from the moisture in the air ..."It de-iced as it descended and the block dropped off." Auckland University physics lecturer David Krofcheck said a 5kg block falling from a plane at 3050m would hit the ground at 400km/h.

"It wouldn't have had much friction, so there would have been plenty of energy to punch a hole through the roof. "The people were very fortunate not to be underneath the ice as they could have easily been killed." A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said it would investigate if it received a complaint.

He said investigations into complaints last year about houses being coated in excrement found it was likely to be from ducks rather than planes. Pacific Wings aviation writer Peter Clark said the ice block probably came from a water leak in a low-pressure zone of the plane. He said because it was not "blue ice", it was unlikely to be toilet waste - although he could not guarantee it. The block was melting fast last night, and as Mrs Robertson put it in the freezer she
joked that she could put it in her gin and tonic, although she prefers an iceless brandy.

She said the couple would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year - "if we don't get hit by any more ice."