Mass at Brentwood Cathedral was interrupted by a violent explosion recently when a chunk of ice fell from a plane and crashed onto the roof, causing some damage to beams and tiles. No one was injured, but Father James MacKay said it was a shock for him and the congregation who stared as a shower of ice and broken tiles flew past the window. He told the BBC: "After a couple of seconds of shocked pause I said 'right, let's crack on' and we did so."
The piece of ice, the size of a breeze block crashed onto Brentwood Cathedral during the 11.30 am Mass on 1 July. Celebrant Fr James Mackay said: “I was in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer when there was a massive crash like an explosion. It was unbelievably loud.”
He could see slates falling from the roof through the window but, somewhat shaken, he continued with the prayer and the Mass. Fr James told the BBC: "After a couple of seconds of shocked pause I said 'right, let's crack on' and we did so."
Later an usher passed him a note explaining what had happened. “Fortunately, no one was hurt,” said Fr James.
Parishioner Dr Graham Hillman said: “There was a tremendous bang and through the principal west window I could see showers of what looked like ice falling. I recalled a lady in Doddinghurst whose outside loo had been completely demolished by an ice block and thought thank goodness no one was out there as they would have been killed.”
Although ice blocks have been known to form and fall spontaneously, the fact that the Cathedral is under a flight path makes it probable that the block fell from an aeroplane.
Chris James, from the Diocesan Property Office, has asked Fr James to notify the Civil Aviation Authority in the hope of tracking down the aircraft responsible but, in the meantime, repairs have been undertaken through an insurance claim. Unfortunately, while temporary repairs were carried out almost immediately, the driving winds and rain of Monday night meant that the roof leaked and the ceiling became stained.
Chris James estimates that the cost of repairs could be as much as £1,000. “The broken slates have already been replaced and waterproofed but we needed to hire a cherry picker to access that part of the roof,” he says. “And the internal redecoration of the ceiling has still to be done.” He says the damage could have been worse though: “The block hit a timber maintenance walkway in the roof. If it had struck a few feet to one side, it might well have brought the ceiling down.”
Source: Brentwood Diocese/ BBC