Boy found in attic, not homemade balloon

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DENVER — As it turned out, the Falcon had only flown up to the attic.

A 6-year-old Colorado boy who was thought to have flown off in a homemade helium balloon was found safe Thursday in his family’s attic shortly before authorities were slated to launch a massive missing-person search. The family later that night, then Friday morning went on TV to tell their story and dismiss speculation about the incident being a hoax.

The tense, four-hour incident that unfolded on cable TV ended Thursday evening when Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden gave a double “thumbs-up” signal after learning during a news conference that the boy, Falcon Heene, had been hiding in a cardboard box in his attic, afraid that his father would be mad at him for releasing the balloon.

It was the happiest possible ending to the potentially tragic episode that riveted the nation, and even the world. At one point Thursday, the balloon search also occupied six of the 10 top “trending topics” on Twitter.

The boy’s father, Richard Heene, who built the makeshift weather balloon, held the smiling Falcon as he made a statement after his son was found safe.

“He said he was hiding in the attic because I yelled at him. I’m really sorry I yelled at him,” an emotional Mr. Heene said. “He scared the heck out of us.”

On Friday, the family appeared on the three major TV networks’ morning talk shows, following an appearance Thursday night on CNN.

In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Falcon got sick when Diane Sawyer asked him and his father what he meant when he said on CNN that “we did this for a show.”

The Heenes had appeared last year on the ABC TV series “Wife Swap,” in which the adventurous Mrs. Heene traded places with a Connecticut woman whose family was described as “risk-averse.”

“Mom, I feel like I’m going to vomit,” Falcon said in response to Ms. Sawyer’s question.

During a live NBC’s “Today” show interview, which ran simultaneously with the ABC show, Falcon vomited into a container when his father was asked the same question.

“Let’s clarify that he’s 6 and I’m not really sure he understood the question he was being asked,” Mr. Heene said in response to the question.

Mr. Heene said dismissed the notion that the ordeal was a hoax.

“I went through such a roller coaster of emotions yesterday, to have people say that, I think, is extremely pathetic,” he said on ABC.

Sheriff Alderden said Friday his investigators believe there was no hoax, but investigators will seek a new interview with the family after the CNN broadcast to clarify the statement.

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