Penny White was looking at her reflection in the bathroom mirror Tuesday about 8:30 a.m., getting ready for the day’, when she felt it: “It went ‘kaaaabooom!’” demonstrated Penny, 75, flailing her arms and imitating the house shaking. “Me and Bill both looked at each other at the same time and said, ‘What in the hell was that?’ ”
Penny’s husband, Bill White, quickly walked outside their Henderson home on Beaconwood Street, near Green Valley Parkway and the Las Vegas Beltway, where a neighbor directed him to the source of the commotion — a 2 1/2-foot hole in the roof of his garage, surrounded by chunks of ice.
Bill, 69, retrieved a ladder to investigate. When he looked into the hole atop his one-story house, he said he knew right away what had happened: A block of ice, about 30 or 40 pounds, had fallen from an airplane and plowed almost completely through his roof.
“From the size of the hole, you knew no one could have thrown it up here,” he said. “It was big and it was coming fast.”
Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration, confirmed that falling ice from an aircraft descending into McCarran International Airport probably caused the damage. He said when the plane was ascending toward cruising altitude, ice accumulated outside the plane, probably near the bathrooms. When the plane was coming into Las Vegas, the ice dislodged and fell, he said.
Gregor said he’d only heard of four to six similar cases in his jurisdiction since he began working with the FAA’s Western-Pacific region three years ago.
“It’s very rare,” he said. “Not unheard of, but rare.”
By checking radar data, Gregor said the FAA found six airplanes that flew over the Whites’ neighborhood between 8:15 a.m. and 8:34 a.m.
All six planes had departed from McCarran before FAA investigators arrived at the airport, but Gregor said the airlines have been notified and maintenance employees had been instructed to check for leaks at their next stops.
It’s not immediately clear which plane may have been leaking water, he said.
The Whites were not the only Henderson residents to report their homes were struck by ice, Gregor said.
Another resident several streets away, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Edmund, said several tiles on his roof had been damaged.
He found ice on the sidewalk outside his home, he said.
However, his damage wasn’t nearly as severe as the Whites’, he said.
“That’s a huge hole,” said Edmund as he thumbed through the Whites’ photos of the incident, one of several neighbors to gather outside the home Tuesday afternoon.
Bill White said the ice had gone straight through his roof tiles, through a layer of plywood, and then shattered on the main gas line to his home.
After discovering the incident, Bill said he collected several chunks of ice, placed them in a bag, and stored them in his freezer as evidence for his insurance company.
He also called the FAA, filed a police report and snapped several photographs of the damage.
A damage estimate wasn’t available, he said. His home office shares a wall with the garage, he said. If the ice had struck his home 10 feet further west, he believes the ice would have landed on his desk, unimpeded by the gas line.
“It could have killed someone very easily,” he said.
There were no reports of injuries from falling ice, according to the Henderson Police Department.
Penny White said the whole incident was surreal, almost “breathtaking.” It’s the kind of incident that’s so rare, nobody believes it will happen to them, she said.
Both Whites said they felt lucky no one was hurt in the incident. Bill said he hoped the leak had been fixed before the plane left McCarran, and no other incidents will be reported.
“If there’s water left in that tank, it’s probably dripping across the country,” he said.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.