Chinese lantern sparks Brighton 'hot air balloon' drama

Posted On 15 Feb 2010 at 10:25 am

A stray Chinese lantern falling into the sea between Brighton’s piers sparked 999 calls from a member of the public who thought it was a hot air balloon catching fire and crashing.

RNLI Brighton Lifeboat, the mobile coastguard and Brighton Police were called to the drama yesterday at about 7.30pm.

The RNLI launched both its boats and a rescue helicopter, expecting to have to pull any survivors from the sea, while the coastguard and police searched from the shoreline.

But when the lifeboats reached the scene, about a mile from shore, the real story was obvious. An RNLI spokesman said: “Arriving on scene, with excellent visibility, it quickly became apparent that it was unlikely to have been a very large balloon as nothing was visible on the surface.

“Approximately 30 minutes into the search a Chinese lantern was seen drifting overhead and with Chinese New Year celebrations under way at a restaurant near the West Pier, an alternative explanation for the tasking was considered.

“Sure enough, a few minutes later the lifeboat found the charred remains of a Chinese lantern not far from the position of the reported sighting.”

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