Man claims responsibility for Phoenix mystery lights
by Hanna Scott/KTAR and KTAR Newsroom
A Phoenix man says he caused the red light display that mystified thousands of people as it floated across the north Phoenix sky Monday night.
The man, who did not want to be identified, said he used fishing line to attach road flares to helium-filled balloons, then lit the flares and launched them a minute apart from his back yard. He said he believed turbulence created by a passing jet caused the balloons to move around.
Lino Mailo said he saw his next-door neighbor launch the balloons.
``I saw the guy releasing the balloons with the flares on them," Mailo said. ``There is no doubt that they came from here."
He added, ``I don't think it's a cool prank because it can panic people."
Phoenix Police helicopter pilot Bruce Bates, who saw the lights, said the balloons explanation makes sense.
``People say they saw different shapes -- a square, a diamond, an arrow, all these different shapes. Well, that's just the balloons moving around in the wind currents," he said.
Some people will always think the lights were UFOs, Bates said.
``I think people want to believe what they want to believe."
A sky lantern company's web site said skylanterns can last for up to 20 minutes, rise about a mile high and can travel for miles.
Valley astronomer Steve Kates, better known as Dr. Sky, believes there's a reasonable explanation for the lights, although he doesn't know what it is.
``I believe life abounds in the universe, but I just have a hard time accepting many of the things that I'm hearing, or seeing, that it has a direct relationship to people or creatures coming from another world. Why not land? Why not show yourself? And where's the evidence?" he said.
While the Air Force and other military agencies said the lights were not connected to any of their operations, Kates said, ``The Air force and every other government agency, of course, has the opportunity to deny that their aircraft or anything that they were doing was going on at the time that we saw something in the sky."