No.Co. resident recounts seeing balloon shot down
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — For North Country resident Keith Defayette, Saturday’s downing of a purported Chinese spy balloon was a chance to witness history being made.
“It was kind of a neat thing to watch,” Defayette, 72, said from his winter place near Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Defayette, a native of Schuyler Falls and a longtime businessman and former Clinton County legislator, was at home when the balloon was shot down.
He received a call from friend Zig Hathaway, also a North Country native, who also is living in Myrtle Beach, who asked if he could see the balloon. Defayette could not see it from where he was, but he went hunting for it.
“I jumped in my car and drove about two miles south and then saw a couple jets circling in the sky,” he said.
“I assumed they had something to do with the balloon. I parked on the side of the road and got out and then saw the balloon. It looked fairly small. I watched for a little over an hour as a third jet joined the other two circling the balloon.”
Dafayette said there was one other person who stopped briefly to watch the scene, but otherwise he was alone.
“All of a sudden, I saw a white cloud around the balloon. Then after a few seconds, but it seemed longer, I heard a loud noise. I then realized that the ‘cloud’ was actually the balloon being blown up. It drifted downward at a slow pace, or so it seemed, then became harder to see and eventually I lost sight of it.”
Defayette had speculated to himself that the U.S. would not shoot down the balloon until it got over water, and he was right.
“The night before I saw it, I thought they’re gonna wait until they get over the ocean, and that’s what happened,” he said.
On Monday, Defayette said he could see several naval vessels off the shore of North Myrtle Beach and several tractor trailers assembled in the area for what appeared to be recovery purposes.
“They were telling everyone in the area that if they see anything wash up on shore not to touch it and to alert the authorities,” he said.
Defayette said it was cool to be in the area when the events unfolded.
“It’s crazy you know. Stop and think about it. What are the chances?” he said.
“It was interesting witnessing history being made.”