Susan Allan and her son were driving through Kelowna’s downtown core after coming back from Peachland on a mild afternoon with her sunroof down — but stopping at a red light would change the course of her day, and weeks to come.
“This is where we were inundated with poop,” she said. “It was coming from the sky, covered my car, and got in my face and in my mouth.”
The brownish discharge splattered across the entire hood and back seats of Allan’s car, as well as the cars behind her, and in adjacent lanes. And the smell was horrid.
“You could tell it was feces because it smelt like poop. But there was also a hint of chlorine. It was the strangest smell.”
When Allan managed to look up, she saw a large plane flying overhead. Once the light turned green, the pair rushed to a nearby gas station to wash the particles off themselves and their car. A visit to the doctor the following morning for a swollen, red eye revealed that Allan had also contracted a conjunctivitis infection.
“He told me I had human feces in my eye,” she said. “I’m 100 per cent positive it was from an airplane.”
Allan continues to use eye drops to treat her lasting sting from the May 9 incident. Three other residents across B.C. have recounted similar experiences since she went public with her story. All four accounts happened in the span of four days, between May 9-12.
Transport Canada has now launched an investigation into two separate incidents in Kelowna. In an email, the department said it takes all reports of possible debris from aircraft very seriously and that it’s possible a valve malfunction allowed the leakage of “blue ice” — a term used for frozen waste enclosed in sewage holding tanks aboard aircraft.
If the liquid seeps and sticks to the outside of the aircraft, it could detach from the plane during the flight, either in a solid or melted state, the department said.
Aviation regulations state that “no person shall create a hazard to persons or property on the surface by dropping an object from an aircraft in flight.”
Any operator found to be in contravention of the regulations will be subject to enforcement under the agency’s mandate.
But Clark Duimel, executive director of the Pacific Flying Club, said that he hasn’t heard of this happening in nearly 30 years.
“I doubt its coming from a jet aircraft, though it’s possible,” he said. “Even if there was any leakage of any sort, it would be a major incident at the airport ramp.”
Yet other residents whose cars were showered by pungent waste say it’s difficult to imagine it coming from anything but an airplane.
On that same afternoon of May 9, Ron Ackerson pulled into a rest stop along the highway while going home to Williams Lake, B.C. after a doctor’s appointment.
“All of a sudden, it’s just brown. The whole grill, the hood, the windshield, and even some on the tail gate. I thought ‘what the frig’ is going on here?’”
Ackerson said it was a clear sky, and he didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of anything above.
“But there’s no way in this world there’s a bird big enough in this day and age that could crap that much. And they sure all wouldn’t be crapping at the same time,” he said.
Ecologist and ornithologists seem to agree.
David Lank, a research associate with Simon Fraser University’s biology department and centre for wildlife ecology pointed to two features of the discharge.
“First of all, it would mostly be white if it was a bird,” he said. “And the amount — it’s too much even for a flock of geese all pooping simultaneously.”
In another incident in Kelowna, Brett Yates found brown splatters on his car parked outside his home. He also found the same liquid dispersed diagonally across three other vehicles in the neighbourhood.
“It smelt pretty disgusting,” Yates said. “I had no explanation for it. It puzzled me for a day and then I put it out of my mind until I started seeing stories about other incidents.”
A mass amount of fecal matter affecting multiple people was also the case for Karen Copeland, who was sitting inside her vehicle with her daughter in Abbotsford.
“It’s like when you drive under a tree and there’s water on it — that’s what it sounded like,” Copeland said. “I looked around and there were four cars that were hit as well.”
It’s unclear if the Kelowna residents were directly below a flight path when the incidents occurred. But their locations are relatively close to one another, and quite close to the airport, said a spokesperson for Nav Canada, a non-profit, private corporation that owns and operates the country’s civil air navigation service.
Kelowna International Airport said it is co-operating with Transport Canada on the investigation, which is ongoing. The federal department also said it does not collect statistics on so-called “blue ice” incidents.