Look up! No, maybe you shouldn’t. You might not want to know what’s falling from the sky.
When an 80-pound inflatable raft crashed through Luce Rameau’s roof in Northeast Miami-Dade Wednesday afternoon it was not a laughing matter. Rameau was in her bed chatting with a friend on her cellphone when she was suddenly covered in wood and dust from her roof.
The yellow raft fell from a visiting Royal Canadian Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter that was on its way back to Miami-Opa locka Executive Airport. The chopper’s crew had been conducting an off-shore training exercise. Somehow the raft “separated from the helicopter,” a police spokesman said.
Despite the damage, and the shock of narrowly escaping a direct hit from the falling object, Rameau, who was slightly injured and greatly shaken, said said she felt lucky. “It could have hit me.”
Oh, South Florida. If it’s not raining or snowing (well, once in 1977) or hailing or dropping life rafts, all sorts of crazy things fall from the skies.
Bales of marijuana and cocaine. Frozen pork. Bullets on New Year’s Eve. A beloved baseball mascot’s head. Poop. Fish. Golf balls.
Even a human body.
Here are some of Florida’s falling-sky stories:
When cocaine crashed a Crime Watch meeting
Homestead’s former police chief and the department’s Crime Prevention officer were addressing a group of residents on a quiet evening in July 1992 from a pool patio at a home. This was the first meeting of a neighborhood Crime Watch group and the setting seemed idyllic.
Until then-chief Curt Ivy looked up. A plane soared overhead, too low, he thought. That’s because it was making a special delivery. “I see a package come sailing down,” the chief told the Miami Herald at the time. The package that fell from the sky was a 75-pound bale of cocaine. Conveniently delivered to a Crime Watch meeting.
The day Billy the Marlin lost his head
In April 1997, a U.S. Navy SEAL parachutist dressed as the Marlins’ popular mascot Billy The Marlin. He was to parachute into the stadium to open the baseball season and wow fans.
Except on the way down, a wind gust caught hold of his pointy-billed head and it spiraled earthbound, where it landed somewhere in Northwest Miami-Dade and wasn’t found for weeks. But the shocked SEAL, figuring he would terrify the youngest Marlins fans if he floated into the stadium as a beheaded Billy, thought fast and steered his flight away from the park.
What a relief that morning bathroom break was
In 1981, a man was asleep on his sofa in a trailer in South Broward. Nature called early that morning. While relieving himself in the bathroom, a 100-pound bale of marijuana came crashing through the roof into the room the man had just left. “If I had stayed where I was I would have been wiped out,” he told the Herald at the time.
The day it snowed on church
Miami Herald humorist Dave Barry quipped in a 1992 article that in South Florida, “we have cocaine packages the size of Pee-Wee Herman falling out of the sky.”
He was referring to a bale of cocaine that crash landed on South Dade Baptist Church in Homestead. The bale smashed into the ground a few feet from the main church building on Southwest 296th Street and went on another journey, this time on land for about 100 feet. The bale bounced sideways into a column on the building, took out a chunk of masonry, spun into the parking lot where it missed a group of worshipers, and finally came to rest against a Cadillac, which took home a nice dent.
But everyone had one hell of a story to tell about that day at church.
That’s not kosher
Fifteen pounds worth of bagged frozen Italian sausage fell on a Deerfield Beach home, WPLG Local 10 reported in June 2017.
“It was like thunder, and it awakened me out of a sleep, homeowner Travis Adair told the station of the fearsome crash the pork bags made as they fell from the sky. The family found two bundles next to the side of the house and three more on the roof.
The packages were marked with the name Jim Williams, owner of a land service company in Myakka City, a rural Florida town some 170 miles away in southeastern Manatee County. Williams had no idea how the meat wound up frozen and dropped from a plane. The Federal Aviation Administration was puzzled, US News & World Report reported.
Scorching metal from the sky
And sometimes we just don’t know what the heck it is. Case in point: a 2006 incident in which something crashed into Bob Amchir’s Davie house. Handymen had just fixed his Hurricane Wilma-damaged pool patio, the Herald reported, when he had something even more distressful coming at him from the sky.
Amchir found that a 2-inch by 3-inch, 2-pound piece of scorching metal had torn through his roof and smashed his tile. He thought it might be from a satellite. Or a plane.
But an FAA spokeswoman told the Herald that the mystery object could not have fallen from a plane and the agency closed its probe. Even the science community came away puzzled. The Buehler Planetarium & Observatory at Broward Community College’s Davie campus said if it were a meteorite of that size the metal would have likely been noticed as a flash as it entered the atmosphere.
The late Jack Horkheimer of the then-Miami Space Transit Planetarium, also said it didn’t look like a meteorite and if it were it would not be warm to the touch. He surmised it might be a piece of “space junk” from an old satellite. But NASA officials told the Herald at the time that they had registered no orbital debris reentering the atmosphere in the Davie area that day.
Leaky lavatory drops an engine
A leaking toilet may have caused the entire third engine to fall off a Northwest Airlines jet that took off from Miami to Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1990. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Tampa International Airport. A National Transportation Safety Board inspection found evidence of leakage in the lavatory — a tell-tale blue streak was seen emanating from the plane. Leaky toilets at high altitudes can cause a block of ice to hit an engine at a high rate of speed.
On September 1, 1969, golf enthusiasts from Punta Gorda on Florida’s western Gulf Coast, woke up to find dozens of golf balls falling from the skies. This weirdness was a decade before the wacky events depicted in the 1980 movie “Caddyshack,” which was filmed in Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and other South Florida locations.
As to the raining golf balls, meteorologists at the time explained that the golf balls were probably sucked up from a pond at one of the region’s plentiful courses by a passing tornado and then dropped down on the ground.
In November 2013, the pilot of a Piper Malibu issued a mayday call and said his passenger had just opened the plane door and had fallen out from 2,000 feet in the air about eight miles southeast of the Tamiami airport. Three days later, the body of Gerardo Nales was found by Miami-Dade Police Marine Patrol officers in a Biscayne Bay mangrove swamp accessible only by boat.
New Year’s Eve bullets
Every New Year’s Eve it seems many South Floridians forget the first law of physics: What goes up, must come down. Still, despite warnings from the police and community leaders, too many boneheads here — and elsewhere — partake in the annual misguided tradition of shooting guns in the air. The bullets rain down and cause property damage, injury and kill people.
In 2007, Corey Baker, a father of five, was killed in Miami when a bullet hit the top of his head. That New Year’s Eve, Audley Banks of Plantation was also killed when a bullet from an assault rifle lodged in his heart. In 2009, a boy on vacation from Italy, Andrea Fregonese, 6, complained of chest pains as he ate a New Year’s Eve dinner with his family in the Design District. A trip to the hospital revealed that Andrea had been shot in the stomach. A bullet, from a gun fired at least half a mile away, fell and hit him. He recovered.