Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – it's a cargo of gold bullion falling from the sky. That was the bizarre scenario in Siberia last week after a Russian plane started shedding its load of gold, platinum, and diamonds almost immediately after take-off.
Fortunately, no one was hurt by the cascading shower of precious metals and gems. Whether anyone got rich is another matter: a search is underway to recover all of the dropped cargo, reports The Siberian Times.
Apparently some 172 ingots, weighing a total of 3 tonnes, spilled out before the Nimbus Airlines AN-12 cargo plane made an emergency landing at another airport some 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) away. A lot of that load was strewn on the runway as the plane took off.
The Tass news agency reports that hatch doors ripped open by air flow were initially thought to be the cause. Now it seems that the cargo might not have been secured properly, though all the correct safety documents were signed and filed.
An official statement by the Yakutsk Airport where the incident happened says that investigations are still underway to try and work out exactly what happened. Some of the aftermath shots you can see online show the cargo plane in quite a state, so it looks like a fairly serious incident, whatever the cause.
In total the cargo of valuables was estimated to be worth US$363 million. The goods are owned not by some bling-mad Russian celebrity but by the Chukotka Mining and Geological company, who are unlikely to be pleased at the turn of events.
Apparently the cargo hatch door came crashing down to earth as well, though again no one was hurt. The five crew members also escaped uninjured.
It would seem the moral of the story is always to secure your cargo before take-off – especially if it's hundreds of dollars worth of gold, platinum, and diamonds. And to always be vigilant when travelling around airports, because you never know when a chunk of metal is going to fall from the sky.
Based on the account in The Washington Post, police closed off the area while a search was carried out, to avoid a literal gold rush: it would probably have been worth almost freezing your hands off to gather some of those ingots.
And in fact, Yakutia locals have been hunting for gold bars in the snow-covered fields, despite officials claiming that all of the cargo has now been collected, according to The Siberian Times.
It's not every day a plane packed with gold bars starts spreading them across the countryside – we've never heard of anything quite like this, though objects have fallen from planes several times before, all across the world.
It sure puts losing your suitcase at the terminal into perspective.