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November 28, 2004

Lynn elder gets icy hello from airplane

From: Boston Herald, MA - Nov 28, 2004

By Marie Szaniszlo Sunday, November 28, 2004

Constance Cotter is profoundly deaf. But if she couldn't hear the crash that made her cat Cocoa leap off the living-room couch Friday, she certainly could feel it.

Cotter glanced out the window of her Lynn home, expecting to find a mangled car, only to see her neighbors doing the same. So she checked downstairs, wondering if a pipe had burst. Then she headed upstairs.

''That's when she saw it,'' her daughter, Mary Petrillo, said of the ice that had fallen through the house roof from a passing plane. ''The ceiling was on her bedroom floor.''

Mixed among the rafters, the shingles and the debris were chunks of ice the size of bricks.

Using a text telephone for the deaf, Cotter sent a panicked message to her daughter. Seconds later came the reply: ''What? We'll be right there.''

Less than a half hour later, Petrillo arrived to find the 80-year-old asthmatic out of breath, clutching her inhaler, and three holes in the roof, the largest of which was roughly 2 feet by 3 feet.

Neither of them imagined at the time that the ice scattered about the bedroom had fallen, quite literally, out of the clear, blue sky.

''There was a smell of fuel in the room, and I knew a plane had just gone by because it was flying low,'' Petrillo said, ''so two and two. . .''

She called Logan International Airport, which referred her to the Massachusetts Port Authority, which referred her to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Yesterday, the FAA sent a representative to inspect the damage to Cotter's home.

Spokesman Jim Peters said the agency had narrowed the source of the ice to three commercial planes that were headed to Logan between 5 and 5:15 p.m. Friday, but declined to name the airlines.

Peters said the FAA would notify all three Monday, and it would be up to Cotter to seek compensation from whichever one was responsible - something that could be ''very difficult to pinpoint,'' he said.

''It's difficult for a flight crew to realize a piece of ice may have fallen from an aircraft,'' Peters said.

For the time being, the holes in Cotter's roof have been boarded up, and her nerves have calmed down, her daughter said. But Petrillo can't shake the thought of what might have happened Friday, had Cotter been lying in bed.

''My mother was lucky,'' she said. ''The next person might not be.''

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