As if the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh hasn’t been enough to put South Carolina on the world’s radar of being a home to odd news. Now there’s the Chinese spy balloon shot down Saturday afternoon off the S.C. coast after federal officials shut down air traffic in and out of Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
Susan Dugan, a photography instructor at Benedict College in Columbia, said she saw the balloon go down about 2:35 p.m. after two missiles apparently pierced it over the Atlantic Ocean. Efforts are being made to recover the balloon, according to news reports.
“I saw two fuzzy non-straight lines headed toward the balloon and then it plummeted,” she said in a telephone interview. “It was classic missiles – just what you would expect and they weren’t going in a straight line. They started out jiggly and dipped down and then started going up. I did not see an explosion.”
But her husband, who was a few miles away on the coast near Myrtle Beach at the time, told her on the phone that he heard two explosions over the ocean about the same time.
Just before 2 p.m. Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it paused commercial flights at Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Wilmington airports “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” according to the agency’s Twitter account. Flights resumed about 3:15 p.m., according to the FAA.
U.S. officials have been concerned about use of advanced “unknown cutting-edge technology” from aerial surveillance in recent months, according to The New York Times.
The balloon, which apparently drifted Thursday into U.S. airspace on the West coast, was mainly used for collection of weather data, according to China. “However, American officials said they have assessed it to be a collection device, though not one that could gather the kind of sensitive information that advanced Chinese reconnaissance satellites already collect,” The Times reported.
Detection of the balloon had a major diplomatic impact as it prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday to postpone a highly anticipated trip to China.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.