By Kathleen Magramo, Andrew Raine, Matt Meyer, Adrienne Vogt and Tori B. Powell, CNN
Witness captures images of suspected spy balloon in North Carolina01:34
JUST IN: The US military has shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon after it drifted off the East Coast near the Carolinas, a US official told CNN.
The balloon was first spotted over the continental US several days ago, according to the Pentagon, but officials deemed it too dangerous to shoot down over land.
US officials say the balloon was being used for surveillance, rejecting China’s claim that it was a civilian research aircraft. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China in response to the sightings.
Meanwhile, another Chinese spy balloon has been spotted over Latin America, the Pentagon said Friday evening.
Travis Huffstetler, a local photographer in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said he witnessed the US military shoot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon Saturday afternoon.
He recalled seeing multiple aircraft flying around the balloon for about 20 to 30 minutes, before he saw what he assumed to be a missile come from an airplane that struck the balloon down.
“The balloon basically, like, popped you know? Like you would see a normal balloon kind of pop,” he told CNN’s Fredericka Whitfield on Saturday. “Now it’s still drifting and floating down as we speak.”
“It was super visible here from the beach,” the photographer added.
From CNN’s Phil Mattingly
Recovery efforts are underway off the coast of the Carolinas where the suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down by the US military, a US official said Saturday.
The specific method of taking down the balloon is still unclear, but the order was given by President Joe Biden and was presented and supported by military leadership, according to the official.
The key was getting the balloon over the ocean, the official said.