Surprise from the Sky

updated 12/14/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/14/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

ALL, THROUGH THE FLIGHT, THE THING had grown on the plane's underbelly, becoming larger, greener, more disgusting. Then, somewhere over Woodinville, Wash., it separated itself from the mother ship and began hurtling earthward.

Meanwhile, down below, Leroy and Gerri Cinnamon, along with Gerri's parents, all football fans, were watching the Seahawks-Raiders game on TV. Just after 3 P.M. on Oct. 18, the thing crashed through the Cinnamons' roof and into their living room, splintering wood, plaster and insulation and disintegrating into baseball-size pieces of greenish ice. It almost hit the fans.

Terrified, the Cinnamons called 911. Firefighters, wearing protective gear, roped off the area, fearing at first that the object might be a radioactive meteorite. They sent the four people in the house to a hospital to be scrubbed down. "I was sick to my stomach with fright," says Gerri Cinnamon, 27. "I had picked up a piece. I didn't want the dogs to lick it."

Finally, reassured that the stuff was not emitting deadly radiation, the Cinnamons returned to their home. The balls of green ice had melted into odoriferous globs that the Cinnamons stashed in the freezer to show to the insurance company. Two days later, an FAA investigator confirmed their suspicions: The green stuff was frozen disinfectant combined with human waste. It had leaked from an airliner's sewage system.

Now, five weeks later, the Cinnamons are repairing their house, which needs a new roof, a new ceiling and new carpets. Their insurance company is paying for the whole mess. FAA investigators have identified the culprit as—no, not Incontinental Airways—but United Airlines Flight 461 bound from Chicago to Seattle. "It's a good thing none of us was killed," says Leroy Cinnamon, 33. "What would you put on the tombstone?"

From Our Partners