Boy's Comments on Runaway Balloon Catch Police Attention

The 6-year-old Colorado boy thought to have floated off in a homemade balloon has raised questions whether it might have been a family stunt.
By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 17, 2009

The too-shocking-to-be-true story of a Colorado boy carried away by a silver helium balloon took new turns Friday, with law enforcement authorities saying they will look into the youth's comment during a live television interview that "we did this for a show."

While Larimer County Sheriff James A. Alderden said investigators had not detected any signs that Thursday's saga -- which mesmerized the television-watching public -- was a hoax or publicity stunt, he added that 6-year-old Falcon Heene's remark on CNN's "Larry King Live" would prompt them to ask additional questions.

Falcon told the cable channel he had heard his family calling his name while he was hiding in the rafters of their home's garage -- and while his parents and the nation thought he was captive on the balloon contraption.

"You did?" asked his mother, Mayumi Heene, seemingly incredulous.

"Why didn't you come out?" queried Richard Heene, the boy's father, the balloon's inventor and the person whose scolding of Falcon earlier in the day had reportedly prompted the boy to flee and hide in the garage attic.

After a pause, a fidgety Falcon answered, "You said that we did this for a show."

In an afternoon news conference, Alderden said investigators plan to interview the family again Saturday. He said that if the incident turns out to have been a hoax, the county will seek restitution for the cost of the operation to track the balloon and rescue the missing boy.

The Heenes appeared on several television channels and shows Friday morning, including CNN, NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America," via satellite from their home. Richard Heene angrily rejected questions about whether the episode was staged, calling the suggestion "extremely pathetic."

Staff writers William Branigin and Sholnn D. Freeman contributed to this report.

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