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NEW BEDFORD — Strange glowing lights appeared in the skies over SouthCoast this past weekend, befuddling onlookers from New Bedford to Swansea and sparking talk of UFOs on social media.
The curious used their smartphones to capture video and still images of the orange and reddish lights that floated in formations and at times hovered in the air without making a sound.
Abdulelah Elmalli, 22, of New Bedford, said he was walking west on Elm Street, toward Buttonwood Park, around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, listening to music on his iPhone, when he looked up and saw four orb-like objects hovering in the air.
“They were glowing like fireballs. One of them changed colors from orange to a reddish color, a bloodshot red, and moved down very slowly,” said Elmalli, who added that one of the lights then quickly ascended.
“I thought ‘This is not natural. This is not something you usually see,’” said Elmalli, who added “It just excited me when I saw it.”
It cannot definitively be determined what people saw in the nighttime Southeastern Massachusetts skies. The Federal Aviation Administration did not receive or investigate any reports of UFOs in the region, said FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac.
New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang and Police Chief David Provencher said they were not aware of any city residents reporting UFO sightings.
Ric Oliveira, a radio talk show host at WSAR in Fall River, said he saw two large unidentified flying objects over Ocean Grove in Swansea around 9:55 p.m. Friday. Oliveira said one object appeared to be a large, curved tube that swiveled and glowed a deep red before it suddenly curled into a ball and slowly elevated from its perch at about 1,000 feet.
“It was the most disturbing thing I ever saw,” said Oliveira, who estimated that he and a friend were only about 300 feet away.
“My first thought was that this was an aurora borealis. … But the last thing I expected it to do was change shape before our eyes. I was literally in shock,” Oliveira said.
A few people have reported seeing similar airborne lights during the last two months near Buttonwood Park. They said the objects appeared to be sky lanterns, which are traditionally found in Asian cultures.
“They were orange, circular lights. … As they got closer to me, I could see they were flames. I’m almost positive they were (lanterns),” said Ryan Saucier, a New Bedford resident who saw the lights floating toward Arnold Street from Buttonwood Park.
Ryan Carreiro, 29, of New Bedford, said he also saw about 10 lights in the sky near the park. “I was in a parking lot and other people were looking. They just kept rising upward,” Carreiro said.
Elmalli said the four objects he saw disappeared at the same time an airplane flying overhead approached their location.
“A normal airplane doesn’t just come in the neighborhood and change colors,” he said.
Various news reports indicate that airborne lanterns — usually constructed from oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame and containing a small candle that illuminates and elevates the lantern — have been confused for UFOs in several locations, including Chicago, Utah, Russia and England.
Standard-Times Editor and Associate Publisher Robert Unger and his wife Barbara were traveling to an event at Tifereth Israel Synagogue around 6:30 p.m. Friday when they and several other people saw eight or 10 lights drifting silently over Buttonwood Park for a minute or two before they each extinguished.
“I, for one, will be very disappointed if it’s some wise guy in his backyard trying to fool everyone with lanterns or strings of lights. I am hoping it’s the vanguard of a civilization of highly intelligent and attractive alien females trying to recruit earthling men,” Unger said.
For his part, Oliveira was adamant that what he saw were not flying lanterns.
“When something 300 feet long changes shape in front of your eyes, that is no lantern,” said Oliveira, who posted pictures and video on Facebook and YouTube. Oliveira said he has not been a believer in aliens or UFOs but what he saw has troubled him.
“This kind of shakes you to the core because your whole reality changes. If it’s a military vehicle, I’m glad we have it because it will scare the (expletive) out of anybody,” Oliveira said.
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