US service members have recovered substantial remains of a Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, according to newly released images that provide the closest glimpse of the craft yet.
Photos from Sunday’s recovery show Navy sailors dragging the downed balloon and parts of its structure onto boats off the coast of Myrtle Beach, SC.
The sailors are assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2, based in Virginia, drawing on their experience handling hazardous materials at sea. Gen. Glenn D. Van Hurk, who oversees the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told reporters yesterday that while he had not determined whether explosives were on board, he said crews at the scene It is appropriate for them to proceed as there may be. They may encounter other dangerous objects, such as solar panel glass and batteries.
Although officials said it was too early to tell how much of the plane would be intact, the images suggest that some material survived the fighter jet’s collision with the missile. The balloon itself is about 200 feet tall and will carry cargo that measures roughly the size of a regional jetliner, Van Hurk said. Officials have not disclosed the details of the equipment.
The material scattered over a debris field of about 5,000 square feet, Van Hurk said, in about 50 feet of water. Officials have said the FBI will analyze the recovered material.
The search is being led by personnel aboard the USS Carter Hall, a ship based in the Norfolk area. Shipping data on Monday showed it sailing in neat rows, indicating a clear grid finding more than 10 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach.
Carter Hall is accompanied by other ships, including the USNS Pathfinder, an ocean survey vessel that will map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean where most of the debris went down and sank, Van Hurk said. Also included are Coast Guard aircraft flying from Elizabeth City, N.C., and Savannah, Ga.
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