Salvage crews are taking precautions against the possible presence of explosives or toxic substances mixed in among the remnants of the downed Chinese spy balloon, military officials said.
After rough seas at first thwarted efforts to recover debris from the balloon, collection efforts ramped up on Monday off the coast of South Carolina, according to Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.
The spy balloon was shot down on Saturday by an Air Force F-22 Raptor off the coast of South Carolina, after it drifted for days unimpeded across the United States. The balloon splashed down approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water.
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The USS Carter Hall, an amphibious landing ship, is collecting debris in the vicinity of the splashdown, VanHerck said. The USNS Pathfinder, a survey ship, is mapping the ocean floor using sonar for the debris search.
Explosive ordnance specialists and at least one unmanned underwater vehicle also are participating, he said. The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents are embedded with salvage crews, VanHerck said.