Capitol Police screener Craig Donahue kneels near the spot where a suspected piece of aircraft from an international flight almost hit him. Credit: Courtesy of Craig Donahue

Craig Donahue was having a pretty good day Friday, returning to work as a security screener at the Maine State House after getting hot dogs and free gelato during a lunch break. Then something fell from the sky.

“I heard a loud bang,” Donahue said Wednesday. “Then, it rolled right to my feet. And I’m like, ‘What the heck is this thing?’”

On Friday, a 6- to 7-pound metal sleeve believed to have come from a plane on an international flight fell from the sky just 6 to 8 feet from Donahue, 48, of Farmingdale as he was walking outside the Capitol building in Augusta. Donahue and two other witnesses were not injured.
Donahue’s first thought was that nobody would believe him. His wife and 16-year-old daughter didn’t at first, he said, laughing.

Piece of granite outside the Maine State Capitol where a suspected piece of aircraft from an international flight dropped down and nearly hit Capitol Police Screener Craig Donahue on Friday, August 12, 2022. Credit: Courtesy of Craig Donahue

He immediately brought the piece into the Capitol Police’s office and recounted what happened. The Federal Aviation Administration started investigating within minutes, Maine Capitol Police Chief Matthew Clancy said.

Still, it remains unclear where the piece came from. Authorities say the FAA determined that the piece’s size means it would have come from a large plane flying an international flight rather than a smaller plane and that it might have dropped from a wing-flap structure.

Donahue said he and the Capitol Police tried to clean the piece to get a serial number but couldn’t find anything identifiable.

“I would love to just have the answer to what it’s from,” Donahue said.

The FAA on Tuesday confirmed that it was aware of the report and investigating.

Donahue said the last time he had looked at the time, while in his car, it was 12:22 p.m. He estimated that the debris fell roughly three to four minutes after that.
Three international flights flew either over Augusta or close to it from 12:20 p.m. to 12:40 p.m, according to flight tracking service Flightradar24.

By far the closest was an Emirates flight from Dulles International Airport in the Washington, D.C., area to Dubai International Airport, which went directly over Augusta at around 12:27 p.m. on Friday.

But a spokesperson for Emirates said, after checking with the airline’s safety and operations team, that the airline determined the incident was “not related to any Emirates flight.”

Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways also had flights near Augusta during that period. Qatar Airways had a flight from Dulles to Doha that got somewhat close to Maine’s capital shortly before 12:30 p.m., and Delta had a flight from Reykjavik to New York City that came close shortly after, though neither passed directly over Augusta.

Qatar Airways didn’t respond to a request for comment while a Delta spokesperson was still seeking more information.

Donahue, who has been a screener with the Capitol Police for 12 years, said he was just thankful the piece hadn’t hit him. He said he was trying to take everything that had happened in stride.

His coworkers, teasing him afterward, even bought him a hard hat.

“Just this weekend, I was standing on my deck outside, and a plane went over,” Donahue said. “I kind of just chuckled.”