NORAD: Crews using sonar equipment to find Chinese balloon debris along Grand Strand coast

Crews spent Monday recovering debris from the Chinese balloon that was shot down off the Grand Strand coast over the weekend.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 2:23 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:28 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – Crews spent Monday recovering debris from the Chinese balloon that was shot down off the Grand Strand coast over the weekend.

Gen. Glen VanHerck, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), provided an update on the efforts to recover parts of the suspected spy balloon.

TIMELINE | U.S. downs Chinese suspected spy balloon off coast of Grand Strand

The balloon was first spotted over Alaska on Jan. 28, according to the Department of Defense, and then made its way across the United States before it was shot down Saturday afternoon over the Atlantic Ocean along the Grand Strand.

Vanherck said that crews are trying to salvage the balloon in any way that they can.

“We continue to focus on safe execution over recovery,” said VanHerck. “We’ve been recovering debris all day.”

He added that they have collected most of the debris that floats and are now using sonars to find debris at the bottom of the ocean. VanHerck said collecting heavy parts of the balloon is also a focus. He estimated that the balloon was up to 200 feet tall and weighed about 2,000 pounds. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the surveillance balloon was as big as three school buses.

“Today we are trying to locate sunken debris and spot any hazardous materials,” said VanHerck. “But we expect the debris field to be of the rough order of magnitude of about 1,500 meters by 1,500 meters, and so, you know, more than 15 football fields by 15 football fields. But we’ll get a further assessment of that today.”

The commander said debris could still wash ashore. Anyone who sees debris that could possibly be connected to the balloon should report it by calling the following numbers:

  • Myrtle Beach Police Department: 843-918-1382
  • North Myrtle Beach Police Department: 843-280-5511
  • Surfside Beach Police Department: 843-913-6368

VanHerck said that FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents are working closely together as debris is collected.

He added that a final analysis will be conducted once all of the debris is collected, but right now officials don’t know where the analysis will take place.

“I don’t know where the debris’ going to go for a final analysis, but I will tell you that certainly the intel community, along with the law enforcement community that works this under counter intelligence, will take a good look at it,” VanHerck said.

China has insisted that the balloon was a civilian airship that was used for meteorological research and had gone off course due to winds and had limited “self-steering” capabilities.