Google balloon mistaken for UFO as it crashes in Colombia

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A photo taken by Colombian police of the remains of an internet balloon which crashed in Tolima provinceImage source, Colombian police
Image caption,
Colombian police retrieved the object and took it to a police station

Farmers living in central Tolima province in Colombia say they were terrified when an object they took to be a UFO crashed in a field on Sunday.

"It was smoking and a strange liquid was leaking from it," a resident of the small town of San Luis said.

Police have since identified the object as an internet balloon developed by X, a company founded by Google, to boost the signal in rural areas.

It is not yet clear what caused the balloon to crash.

'From outer space'

Tolima police commander Jorge Esguerra denied previous reports on Twitter and local media which had described the object as a satellite.

Image source, Twitter
Image caption,
Some locals assumed the "strange object which fell from the sky" was a satellite

"It's a technological device used by Google which moves around and is held aloft by a balloon," he explained, adding that it formed part of X's Project Loon.

X, which was formerly known as Google X, is using the devices to extend internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas by having the balloons, which travel on the edge of space, relay the signal.

Media caption,
The giant balloons carrying computer equipment were first launched in New Zealand in 2013

But many people in the rural area near San Luis where it crashed said they were convinced it was something more sinister.

"We all thought it was a UFO or the remains of a space craft," locals told El Tiempo newspaper.

It is not the first time a Project Loon balloon has crashed.

In February 2016, one came down at a tea plantation in Sri Lanka during a test flight.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A similar crash happened in Sri Lanka last year