Mumbai: UFO mystery solved as two held for releasing ad balloons

Owner of an event management firm approached the police and said his firm had released the balloons, which were mistaken for parachutes by a pilot, on Saturday as part of a marketing tactic during a cricket match; he and firm’s manager were arrested, released on bail

Three days after five ‘unidentified flying objects’ were spotted over the airport by a Jet Airways’ pilot ahead of take off, triggering speculation as well as probes by multiple agencies, the mystery was solved yesterday when an event organiser approached the police and owned up to releasing the balloons.

The balloons being released and (circled) how they looked after they reached a certain height, leading to them being mistaken for parachutes
The balloons being released and (circled) how they looked after they reached a certain height, leading to them being mistaken for parachutes

Kunal Shah, who owns an event management company, which is managed by one Nilesh Shrimankar, approached the Vakola police yesterday after reading media reports on the balloons and confessed that they were released by his firm.

He said the balloons were released on behalf of a BKC-based diamond export company as a marketing ploy during a sponsored cricket match held that day at the Indian Airlines grounds in Kalina, close to the airport.
The Vakola police informed the Airport police, which was investigating the case.

The event company’s office in Kandivli was raided and it was found that the firm was running without registration. Shah and Shrimankar were arrested for negligence as they had not taken permission to release the balloons. They were produced in court and released on a bail of Rs 10,000.

Following the scare, directions have been issued to all the police stations close to the airport to not issue No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) to anyone to float advertising balloons. The Vile Parle, Vakola, Kurla, V B Nagar, Sakinaka and Airport police station, among others, have been asked to take this note very seriously.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Airport region) Madhukar Sankhe said, “Even earlier, we had asked all police stations to pay extra attention whenever any event took place near the airport, but no one took it seriously. After this incident, however, we asked all police stations close to the airport to refrain from giving any kind of NOC to event organisers for floating balloons.”

“The balloons were released just opposite VVIP gate number 8, where Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) guards are on duty around the clock. It is surprising they did not notice the balloons being released,” said a police official.

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