MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The Navy is conducting recovery operations for the Chinese balloon that was shot down Saturday 6 nautical miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, according to a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

NORAD was able to track the balloon across North American airspace before it was shot down, according to a news release.

“I am proud of the exceptional professionalism the NORAD and USNORTHCOM team displayed throughout this operation, and the dedication they bring every day to defending out homelands,” Gen. Glen CanHerck said in a statement.

Partners with the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, and FBI “ensured public safety throughout the operation and recovery efforts,” according to the release.

Photo: Tom Harper

The balloon was struck by a missile from an F-22 fighter just off Myrtle Beach, fascinating sky-watchers. Crowds gathered in neighborhoods, hotel parking lots and beaches to watch the balloon hover, with some cheering just after it went down.

The ensuing debris spread across roughly seven miles and landed in 47 feet of water, shallower than officials had expected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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