The downed Chinese spy balloon created a sight-seeing spectacle for residents along the Carolina coast: 'I will never forget this day'

A Chineses surveillance balloon flies above in Charlotte, North Carolina, on February 4, 2023.
A Chinese surveillance balloon flies above in Charlotte, North Carolina, on February 4, 2023.Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • On Saturday, the US military shot down a Chinese spy balloon above the Atlantic Ocean.

  • The exchange drew crowds in towns across the coast of the Carolinas, per The Associated Press

  • "It looked like stars falling down," one onlooker told the AP.

The downing of a purported Chinese spy balloon by the US military on Saturday drew crowds— both shocked and amazed — across the South Carolina resort city of Myrtle Beach, The Associated Press reported.

The US military used an F-22 jet to shoot down the spy balloon with a single AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, on Saturday afternoon, Insider previously reported.

But while officials were shooting down the balloon, crowds gathered in the town, which has 37,000 residents and sees nearly 20 million tourists a year, to see the military pageantry, the AP reported.

People assembled in the city's neighborhoods, hotel parking lots, and beaches to watch the jet knock the balloon from the sky, the AP reported.

"I did not anticipate waking up to be in a Top Gun movie today," Ashlyn Preaux, 33, of Forestbrook, South Carolina, told the AP.

Preaux told the outlet she had gone out to check her mail and noticed her neighbors all gathered around. She then witnessed the strike and the balloon falling apart.

Logan Hardy, 12, was on vacation with his family and saw the balloon right above his hotel, the AP reported. He told the AP that the impact from the strike shook the building and he was able to see the debris as it fell.

"It looked like stars falling down," he said, adding: "I will never forget this day."

While onlookers were excited to see a momentous exchange, authorities in nearby towns along the Carolina coast are warning residents and tourists alike that if they come across any debris that washes ashore, they shouldn't touch it. 

"Debris should not be touched, moved, or removed. Such items are part of a federal investigation and tampering could interfere in that investigation," the Sunset Beach Police Department in North Carolina said Saturday in a statement on Facebook.

The Horry County, South Carolina Police Department also warned its over 350,000 county residents in a Saturday statement.

"Members of the US Military are coordinating to collect debris from the ocean; however, it is possible fragments may make it to the coastline," the warning said, adding that residents should contact officials if they spot debris.

Other local law enforcement and city agencies along the coast have also released similar statements.

Read the original article on Insider