Brentwood Cathedral struck by 'aeroplane ice block'

Virgin Mary and St Helena cathedral
Image caption Ice from the sky left roof tiles and beams damaged at Brentwood Cathedral

A block of ice believed to have fallen from an aeroplane crashed through the roof of an Essex cathedral during a Sunday service.

Father James MacKay was leading the Eucharistic prayer at Brentwood Cathedral when he heard an "explosion".

The congregation looked on as a shower of roof slate and ice fell outside the building. The cathedral's roof and beams were damaged.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said ice strikes from planes were rare.

'Trembling with shock'

Fr MacKay said: "Halfway through the celebration there was what sounded like a massive explosion to the left side of the cathedral.

"Everything stopped as we heard this. I turned to my left to see lots of slate and what looked like white stuff, which we now know was ice, falling from the roof.

"I was trembling with a bit of shock.

"After a couple of seconds of shocked pause I said 'right, let's crack on' and we did so."

An usher who went to investigate told Fr MacKay the cathedral had been hit from above, possibly by ice from a plane.

Fr MacKay said: "You think this sort of thing is a myth. But when you see the damage in the roof, you realise it is not. It went straight through the slate."

The CAA gets about 30 reports each year of ice falling from aircraft.

A CAA spokesman said: "Ice falling from planes does not happen that often - it can happen around hose connections and if washers fail.

"You can have a big lump of ice come off an aircraft as it descends into warmer air.

"But increasingly, a lot of these incidents are natural meteorological phenomena."

The building, near the High Street, is England's newest cathedral and was built between 1989 and 1991.

The damage caused on 1 July has been repaired and cost hundreds of pounds, the cathedral said.

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