Wedding lanterns spark UFO scare

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Lighting up the night sky: The suspicious looking wedding lanterns (c) Lighting up the night sky: The suspicious looking wedding lanterns (c)

IT was a breathtaking sight which was thoroughly enjoyed by guests at the wedding of an Epping couple.

But the release of some 60 to 70 illuminated Thai lanterns into the night sky over Leez Priory, near Felsted, sparked fears that aliens were on their way.

Police received several calls from concerned residents who spotted a series of bright lights passing over their homes.

A police spokesman said that one caller reported "a large amount of red lights" in batches of five or six lights over Bannister Green on the evening of Monday, March 21.

Other callers contacted Stansted Airport concerned that extra-terrestrial activity was about to land.

The situation was eventually resolved when the airport's control tower identified the source of the strange lights.

Dozens of 5ft high x 3ft wide lanterns were released at regular intervals from the wedding reception of Joanne Lye, from Epping, and Tom Fradd, from Theydon Mount, at the 16th century Tudor mansion.

Joanne's father, Stephen, said: "It was very impressive.

"They float away slowly and create quite a stir. It was very good."

But he admitted that when the wedding was being planned no one had even considered the reaction the display might have caused.

"I hadn't even thought about it," Mr Lye said. Admitting that the lanterns could have been seen by unsuspecting people as possible UFOs, he said: "They did cluster in the night sky."

Grant Barry, from Stapleford Abbotts, whose company Sky Lanterns imports the lanterns, said: "They're like tissue paper with a bamboo frame. They're lit and float up into the night sky.

"It's like a fireworks display, but it's quiet, more tranquil, more peaceful than a fireworks display.

"They go for about ten minutes, burn out and then come down slowly. It's a breath-taking experience."

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