Chinese balloon: Eyewitnesses react to takedown; ‘It looked like a shriveled Kleenex’

Witnesses in South Carolina reacted with jubilation and relief after U.S. fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday.,

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U.S. Air Force fighters, acting on an order from President Joe Biden, shot down the balloon off the South Carolina coast. It was a sight that incredulous residents in the Palmetto State recalled vividly.

Ashlyn Preaux, 33, of Forestbrook, told The Associated Press that she was getting her mail when she noticed the balloon in the cloudless sky and jets circling it before the aircraft fired missiles.

“I did not anticipate waking up to be in a ‘Top Gun’ movie today,” she told the news organization.

Jeffrey Billie, a retired defense contractor who lives in Pawleys Island, told The New York Times that he saw two fighter jets “dancing with this thing going around and around it” before a third jet flew near the balloon as it floated over the Atlantic Ocean.

“Then, of course, the round big white ball that we saw -- all of a sudden it looked like a shriveled Kleenex.”

In Myrtle Beach, a crowd lining the boardwalk on the beach cheered as the balloon was hit by a missile launched from an F-22 fighter, the AP reported.

“Boom!” yelled one person in a video taken by tourist Angela Mosley.

“That’s my Air Force right there, buddy!” another person exclaimed.

“I came out of the store and looked up and there were fighter jets circling and then the balloon’s there,” Mosley told the AP. “One of the fighter jets gets going fast and gets closer to it, and then we heard a boom and we knew it was gone.”

The wayward balloon entered U.S. airspace north of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28 and then crossed into Canadian airspace two days later, the AP reported. It returned to U.S. airspace on Tuesday in Idaho and was sighted near Billings, Montana, on Wednesday.

U.S. officials acknowledged its existence on Thursday.

Joey Lopes, of Georgetown, South Carolina, told CNN that he was visiting Myrtle Beach on Saturday when he saw the Chinese balloon near the coast.

Lopes told the cable news outlet that he recorded a video eight minutes later after hearing a loud noise in the sky.

“We were at lunch, and we were kind of, like, joking around. Like, ‘What if we see it? What if it’s right here?’” Lopes, a social studies teacher, told the cable news outlet. “We saw the fighter jets circling around. There were about three or four of them,” said Lopes. “And then after that, we heard a bang, and the balloon was gone.”

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