UFOs turn out to be 16 Chinese wish lanterns

Oct 5 2011 - 10:31am

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WASHINGTON TERRACE -- If you were worried about reports of UFOs over Weber County, you can rest easy: The mysterious burning objects spotted flying over a Washington Terrace neighborhood late Saturday night have an earthly origin.

A group of Bonneville High School juniors launched 16 Chinese wish lanterns from a nearby park around 11:30 p.m. Saturday following a homecoming dance, said Gage Marberger, the school's student body vice president.

"They weren't aliens or anything," he said Tuesday.

The students got the idea to launch the paper lanterns from the Disney movie "Tangled," Marberger said.

The movie is a remake of the classic story of Rapunzel in which a young girl has a wish to see the lanterns she calls stars released each year on her birthday.

Wish lanterns are found in some Asian cultures. The lanterns are typically made of oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame, and have a small candle or fuel cell made from a waxy flammable material.

When lit, the flame heats the air inside the lantern, causing it to rise. The lantern stays aloft only as long as the flame remains lit.

The Bonneville students had no idea the lanterns would cause a stir among some Washington Terrace residents who believed the objects might be UFOs, Marberger said.

"They didn't think anyone would see them," he said.

After the Standard-Examiner reported Monday that some people who saw the objects were puzzled, some Bonneville students found the incident funny.

"We sat in a hallway and laughed, because we couldn't believe they thought it was a UFO," Marberger said.

One of those witnesses was Matthew Kamradt, of South Ogden.

Kamradt said he was in the backyard of his brother's home on Ben Lomond Avenue near Spring Street when he saw the fiery objects fly by from south to north about 1,000 feet off the ground.

Kamradt went to the front yard of the home to get a better look and spotted three motorists who had stopped their cars, gotten out of their vehicles and were also looking skyward at the objects.

After his encounter was reported by the Standard-Examiner, Kamradt said, he received some good-natured ribbing from co-workers at A.K Finishing Inc., a company that paints automobile air bags.

"People were coming into my building, asking about the spaceship," he said. "I am just happy to know what the objects are."

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