US military searches for debris from Chinese spy balloon off Myrtle Beach coast

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Cleanup is underway off the coast of Myrtle Beach as U.S. Navy divers recover parts of what military officials have called a Chinese spy surveillance balloon.

We saw it over the Queen City on Saturday morning as it made its way through the Carolinas. Later in the day, it was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet missile about 7 miles off the South Carolina coast.

On Monday, Channel 9’s Dave Faherty got a look from Chopper 9 Skyzoom at the efforts to find debris that had fallen into the ocean.

The weather Monday gave crews along the South Carolina coast great visibility. Faherty also noticed a lot of people out on the beaches keeping an eye out for possible wreckage.

Because it’s part of a federal investigation, there were flight restrictions just off the coast where that search was taking place, but Faherty could see some of the activity. He could clearly see three ships in the search area spread out over a 3-square-mile area. From Chopper 9 Skyzoom, Faherty could see one of those vessels was from the Coast Guard.

Authorities in both Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach were posting on social media about the possibility of some of the debris washing up on shore. They asked anyone who saw debris to call local authorities and urged people not to touch, move, or remove it.

One woman said she is keeping an eye out and knows what she’ll do.

“They said don’t touch it, I won’t touch it, I don’t break those laws,” Sally Horn said.

“Would you take a picture?” Faherty asked.

“I would definitely take a picture,” she said.

Officials believe debris is scattered over a several-mile-large area of ocean where the water is about 50 feet deep. The search area is about 6 miles off the coast from the Apache pier, just south of North Myrtle Beach.

Both the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard are involved in recovery efforts. There could be quite a bit of debris -- the size of at least two school buses.

Faherty was told the military planned to use divers and possibly a crane during the recovery.

Lacey Leavitt said she could see the balloon on Saturday as it floated toward the South Carolina coastline. She shared video her husband took seconds after the F-22 fired the sidewinder missile, taking the balloon down.

“And we’re just sitting here watching, and I’m video taping. And then all of a sudden, he’s just like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re going straight at it,’” she said. “And then all of a sudden we saw the missile took it and it just popped the balloon.”

One couple from Colorado watched some of the search efforts from the Sky Wheel several miles away.

“Well there were two ships out on the horizon, pretty stationary. If anything -- there’s not a lot of boats out right now -- so if anything, it was probably ships out there looking for the remains of the balloon,” Rocky Strassberg said.

(WATCH BELOW: Video shows apparent Chinese surveillance balloon flying over Charlotte area Saturday)