LOOK: Chinese balloon shot down over Carolina coast, senior defense official says
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A mysterious object believed to be a balloon from China was seen in the WMBF News viewing area on Saturday.
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WMBF News viewers sent photos of the balloon spotted across the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, including areas of Myrtle Beach, Conway, Aynor and into Florence County.
A short time later, the balloon was shot down by what appeared to be military jets circling it in the area. WMBF First Alert Meteorologist Robert Whitehurst captured footage of the object as it began falling out of the sky.
A senior defense official said that the balloon was shot down six nautical miles off the coast in territorial airspace with aircraft from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. A single missile took down the object with no threat to civilians. It was also between 60,000-65,000 feet in the air when it was shot down.
The Associated Press reported that an operation was underway to recover debris from the Atlantic Ocean.
In a Tweet shortly before 3 p.m., South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he was briefed by the Pentagon on plans to shoot down the object once it was safely off the coast.
U.S. Rep. Russell Fry also released a statement, saying that the balloon “should have never entered American airspace” before making its way to the Myrtle Beach area.
Sen. Tim Scott echoed that sentiment in his own statement saying:
“The balloon should have been shot down before it crossed the continental United States, not after. We still don’t know what information was collected and where it was sent. This was a dereliction of Biden’s duty, and let’s hope the American people don’t pay a price.”
The Federal Aviation Administration also issued ground stops for Myrtle Beach International Airport and the Charleston International Airport as the object appears to be making its way east. In a statement, the FAA said departures to MYR, CHS and Wilmington airports were paused “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort.”,
The ground stop was later lifted, but several passengers did experience delays at MYR, according to WMBF News Reporter Natasha Laguerre.
Officials at the Pentagon have accused China of using the balloon to spy on military sites. China has denied the accusations, stating the balloon is a weather research device that flew off course.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also canceled a scheduled trip to Beijing after news of the balloon broke.
Stay with WMBF News for updates.
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