The mystery red lights flying over Morris County for the past month may be nothing more than party decorations.
Witnesses to Tuesday night’s flyover, when nine red lights appeared in the sky over the eastern part of the county, described what appeared to be “a festival decoration that floats in the air,” Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said in a statement issued Thursday.
Bianchi wouldn’t be more specific, citing concerns that people would go out and purchase the items. On Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office announced it was investigating the red lights because of a potential danger to aircraft.
The Daily Record reported weeks ago that the lights appeared to be something called sky lanterns — inexpensive balloons powered by lighting wax-infused cloth, capable of reaching an elevation of about one mile and traveling for up to 10 miles.
Todd Schlosser, owner of a sky lantern distributorship in the Midwest, said at the time that the Morris lights looked like sky lanterns in videos he’d seen. Sky lanterns commonly are used to celebrate weddings, church festivals and other events, he said.
While Bianchi wouldn’t say what he believes the lights to be, he asked Morris County residents near the intersection of Routes 10 and 202 to call authorities if they find “large bags” on their property.
The red lights have been seen on several occasions, starting on Jan. 7, and on Tuesday police received numerous calls about them with witnesses saying they saw up to nine lights.
Bianchi said the lights were seen over Morris Plains and appeared to be traveling from the area of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital toward Route 10 and Route 202, where “the fires burned out.”
“It really is a public safety issue,” Bianchi said. “What is a prank one minute can be a tragedy the next.”
Bianchi said he was concerned about the “convergence of airspace” in the area, with planes heading to Newark Liberty International Airport, Morristown Airport, and helicopters flying into Morristown Memorial Hospital. The lights appeared to be about 2,500 feet in the air, the prosecutor’s office has said.
The Federal Aviation Administration has expressed concerns about the lights interfering with air traffic and has issued a warning to aircraft heading into Newark, officials said.
Bianchi asked anyone with information about the lights to contact local police, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Homeland Security Unit at (973) 285-2900 or the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Crime Stopper Program at (973) COP-CALL or (973) 267-2255.