Eyes rolled as the Chinese balloon crashed into the Atlantic

Eyes were fixed on the skies on Saturday when a suspected Chinese spy balloon passed over the US east coast – where local authorities warned civilians not to fire their rifles – before being shot down as it drifted over the Atlantic Ocean .

Software engineer and storm chaser Brian Branch took photographs of the balloon high above western North Carolina just hours before it was shot down.

He could see a payload hanging from the round white balloon, which officials said was the size of three school buses.

She was shot down off the Carolina coast on Saturday afternoon and an operation was launched to recover the debris. The Biden administration had previously hesitated to shoot the balloon due to the risks to people on the ground from falling debris.

“I’m a little surprised they didn’t shoot it down over Montana,” Branch said.

There had been reports of sightings throughout the state of South Carolina, including Greenville and Spartanburg, and suburban Charlotte, North Carolina.

The maneuverable balloon entered US airspace over Alaska earlier this week and was not recognized by government officials until Thursday, a day after commercial flights were temporarily halted at Billings Airport. , Montana, and people on the ground saw the balloon seemingly lingering high above the city.

China claimed it was a weather research vessel blown off course, a claim rejected by US officials who said the vessel was over areas of Montana where nuclear missile silos are located.

In Congress, Republicans pounced on the initial decision not to tear down rural Montana as a sign of weakness on the part of the Biden administration.

But in York County, South Carolina, not far from the North Carolina border, the county sheriff’s office has advised against anyone attempting to take out the balloon on their own.

“Don’t try to shoot him!!” the sheriff’s office tweeted Saturday as the balloon flew over the region at an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18,600 meters). “Your rifle shots will NOT reach him. Be responsible. What goes up will come down, including your bullets.

The allure of the balloon that swept the nation has also spawned fake videos purporting to show it being shot down.

These included an unverified video of Billings purporting to show a “massive explosion” over the city on Friday night, two days after the balloon passed. The video was captured and broadcast by Fox News, where Montana Governor Greg Gianforte said in an interview with Tucker Carlson that he was “monitoring the situation.”

It was viewed millions of times before local officials dismissed speculation that a Chinese balloon had been shot down. The City of Billings released a statement saying there were “no explosions in, around or through #Montana.”

Another video purported to show the balloon downing over North Carolina on Friday afternoon, around the same time people reported seeing it over Missouri.

On Saturday morning in Polkville, North Carolina, Branch — the storm chaser — said he was able to observe the balloon for about an hour and 15 minutes before it drifted into the path of the sun.

“It went east to the point where the sun blocked it out for me. Nothing around, nothing to shut him out, and no rednecks in North Carolina to shoot him,” he said. “I let him pass. If he was spinning, if it was a tornado, I would have chased him.

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