St. Albans woman witnesses spy balloon shot down at Myrtle Beach

A St. Albans native witnessed the Chinese spy balloon shot down at Myrtle Beach.
A St. Albans native witnessed the Chinese spy balloon shot down at Myrtle Beach.(Robin Filipiak)
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 3:56 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Saturday afternoon, a Chinese balloon was shot down by the U.S. military, 6 miles off the coast of South Carolina near Myrtle Beach.

St. Albans native Robin Filipiak, who lives in Myrtle Beach part of the year, had heard of the balloon but did not think much about it.

“I heard about it on the news but I didn’t really follow it,” she said.

Saturday afternoon, a friend messaged her on Facebook telling her the balloon was headed for Myrtle Beach, and asked if she could see it.

“Lo and behold, it was right there and I couldn’t believe it,” Filipiak said.

Filipiak is a photographer, so she took her camera with a telephoto lens out on the balcony. She says she saw four fighter jets flying above her.

“They never went on top of it, they just kind of did circles around it,” she said.

As the balloon began drifting over the water, Filipiak went down to the beach, and she said a large crowd started to gather.

“It was kind of cool. It was kind of scary, too, because you didn’t know what was going on with all those planes and the military stuff,” Filipiak said.

She says she saw the missile being shot.

“You could see it go, the missile go and I thought, ‘oh my God’ and then when it blew up I don’t think you can describe it, because here we don’t see that,” she said.

After it blew up, Filipiak said it shook everything.

“It was so loud, and it just shook the concrete it set off car alarms and it was like a second blast like the percussion of it maybe,” Filipiak said. “I thought this is kind of like history and we were a part of it, and I cannot believe it went right over my condo of all places.”

Days later, there is still a large military presence as the Coast Guard has set up a security zone around the crash site.

China officials say the balloon was a civilian airship used for research, but U.S. officials say it was spying on sensitive military sites.

The balloon was 200 feet tall and weighed more than 2,000 pounds.

It fell about 6 miles off the coast into about 50 feet of water.

The U.S. Coast Guard is now recovering debris from the balloon.