Anyone with even a passing interest in the unexplained or paranormal is aware of strange falls from the sky, the phenomenon where things fall from the sky that really shouldn’t. Charles Fort, the famous author and collector of odd stories (and where we get the term “Fortean” from) cataloged numerous stories of strange falls, including fish, frogs, blood, worms, jell, and more. And honestly, I’d rather have all of those things fall on me at once than to experience what one Canadian family recently had fall on them.
Mystery still clouds the origins of a brownish, smelly material that has fallen from the sky and fouled a backyard at one Mississauga property, dirtied cars at another and splattered on a Toronto highway and bus.
Emma Gilfillan-Giannakos reported hearing a loud splash in her family’s backyard on June 19, and then saw a lot of brownish, smelly matter covering the pool solar blanket, patio, garden and even bits floating in the pool. Although she and her husband both believe this was human waste that fell from a plane, Transport Canada has concluded otherwise.
“After careful review, Transport Canada has concluded that the debris that fell on the Mississauga residence did not fall from an aircraft. The investigation is now closed,’’ was the emailed response to Torstar News Service on Thursday, following a request for an update on the investigation.
But Gilfillan-Giannakos said the federal agency, which investigates all reports of items purported to fall from planes, failed to first tell her the investigation had been closed.
Transport Canada had told her in an email on June 24 that no aircraft had flown directly over her house at the time of the splatter, but eight aircraft did fly within 1.6 kilometres of her home during the period in question. The agency planned to contact the owners of those aircraft, and she was told in the email: “Each is expected to verify that the aircraft lavatory system is leak free, and to report the results of this verification along with any discrepancies to us.’’
Transport Canada was supposed to get in touch with her once that process was finished and give her the results.
“They did not tell me this,’’ she told the Star. “Have they tested it? If so, let’s see the lab results. Where else could it have come from? Debris? No way. There is no doubt this came from a plane,’’ she says.
She wonders if the material splattered around her yard was even actually tested to determine conclusively what it was — she believes it was human waste.
The Transport Canada investigator who came to her home after she reported the incident didn’t know how to properly take a picture with his BlackBerry, she said. “I had to show him how to use the zoom.’’
Further, she said, the investigator didn’t come equipped with anything to put a material sample in, so she gave him a little plastic bag.
“He scraped some off with his finger and put it in the bag,’’ she said.
Transport Canada also confirmed to the Star by email that it is still investigating a similar incident on June 19. A GO Transit bus driver reported that a deluge of brown, smelly matter the width of a highway lane suddenly fell on the road and splattered his windshield while he was driving on Highway 407, near Dufferin St.
The federal agency also confirmed it is looking into a Wednesday report from another family in Mississauga. Moments after they’d parked their car, George Sullivan and Liz Murray report that it was splattered with brown, smelly matter. (It also fell on two other cars in the driveway).
The couple is convinced the mess is human waste that fell from a plane.
Sullivan called Transport Canada and reported the matter the same day. He said someone returned the call Thursday morning and spoke to his daughter, saying that if there was no blue particle matter, whatever had fallen couldn’t be from a plane. (Frozen lavatory waste from planes is referred to as “blue ice.” During a malfunction, frozen pieces of the liquid escaping from the plane at high altitude can loosen and fall to the ground.)
Sullivan called again and was told Transport Canada has assigned an investigator. Although he has cleaned the cars with a power washer, he photographed the mess and also took a sample.
“They said, ‘We don’t take samples … we don’t analyze samples,’” said Sullivan, an engineer.
“I need to have an answer. I’m not the type of person who is going to let this go. They know what time it happened, they can easily track how many planes were in the air. They need to look at those planes, check those valves … I have an engineering background. The splotch pattern on the vehicle indicates pellets hitting the car.”
What concerns him, he says, is that if falling matter that’s still frozen or solid hits someone — for example his granddaughter, who was near the car Wednesday — “someone could get hurt or killed.’’
He speculates that Transport Canada is loath to acknowledge a problem because doing so would mean “they’re accepting liability. If someone gets hurt … if there is property damage, they’re liable. So what do you do? Denial, denial, denial. I think that’s what they’re trying to do.’’
Murray how often these events occur. A neighbour told her a similar dump of brown smelly matter landed on his car and driveway last fall. “He assumed it came from an aircraft and just cleaned it up.’’
Gilfillan-Giannakos spent hours getting rid of the mess in her backyard. But the pool solar blanket is currently festering in the family’s garage. Because she believes it has fecal matter on it, Gilfillan-Giannakos doesn’t want to just put it at the curb for garbage pickup. She has asked Transport Canada to take it, test it and properly dispose of it — and followed up with an email to her local MP, Stella Ambler, and government ministers asking for help. She has had no response. The solar blanket now has holes eaten through it from the material that landed on it.
Gilfillan-Giannakos said she wishes it was something the City of Mississauga had jurisdiction over, because when she emailed the mayor’s office, she got a response within minutes. She was advised that while the city has no jurisdiction, the mayor’s office would like to be kept apprised.
I have to agree with the victims in this case. It seems like the most likely and rational explanation has to be that an airplane dumped this fecal matter, either purposefully or by accident. I’m not buying the explanation from Transport Canada. For one, the plane would not have to fly directly over their home in order for the waste to fall on the house. Anything falling from a plane would be carried forward by the momentum of the plane, which would be flying hundreds of miles per hour. Add in some strong wind currents, and the plane wouldn’t necessarily have to fly right over the home for waste to fall on it. Either way, it seems like the investigation was not very thorough, and I’d be pissed too if I were these people.