Bag of cremated human remains accidentally dropped from
About a week ago, Barbara Vreeland, resident of Forest Gale
(OR), was cooking dinner in her kitchen. It was about 1800, when
all of a sudden she heard a loud noise above her head. She had no
idea what it could be, so she went outside to see if something had
fallen on her house. Something had, but she could not have guessed
what it was.
She walked outside the house to check out her roof, and her
neighbors told her that a small airplane had been circling the area
and had cut its engine. It was gliding, and someone's hand was
sticking out from the airplane's passenger-side window, holding
"They could see someone's hand from passenger side with a sack
in it and something falling out if it. It hit our roof. That's what
made all the commotion," Vreeland told The Argus. "It was more than
a bang," she added. "I just didn't know what it was."
What Vreeland found was a large hole in her roof. When she check
out her attic, she found it covered with a heavy gray material that
looked like dry cement mix. So she called the local police
department, and they in turn called the fire department. They both
came to check out the damage. They collected as much of the
material as they could, bagged it and temporarily patched her
Then came the big surprise. "That night at around 10 p.m. the
police came and said it was cremated remains. I was kind of in
shock. They said even if the plane was gliding, it was doing about
80 miles per hour. We were lucky no one was hurt. It hit right
where a big rafter was. Some material is still there. I don't
know what to do with it. I feel sorry for the family."
As it turns out, the remains belong to a man who died in June of
natural causes. He was 46 years old and a resident of Washington
State. "He had connections in Forest Grove and wanted his remains
spread over Mountain View Cemetery. His family was carrying out his
wishes and is very distraught about the mishap," Vreeland said she
According to FAA investigator Bob Braze, the aircraft was a C172
that had been rented at Twin Oaks Airport. "I've been on this job
for 20 years, and I haven't heard of this happening," Braze said.
"We occasionally get reports of objects dropping from the sky, like
built-up ice falling from an airplane or things coming out of orbit
hitting the desert, but not something like this."
As to regulations governing the dropping of cremated remains,
there appears to be no specific regulation that covers this type of
activity. "Regulations require a pilot to exercise care when
dropping something from an airplane. It must not create a hazard
nor cause damage to persons or property on the ground. Planes must
fly at 1,000 feet over congested areas and 500 feet over
"The plan was to scatter the ashes over the cemetery, but the
bag slipped," said Braze. "The FAA is interested in how the
operation took place and if it was in compliance with our
regulations. Witnesses around the housing area said the plane was
below 500 feet."
The FAA is investigating the incident and could take action to
suspend the pilot's license and/or issue a fine.