- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2009

DENVER | The Larimer County Sheriff said Saturday that criminal charges would be filed against one or both of the parents of the six-year-old boy who was hiding in his garage attic while authorities thought he was flying through the air in a homemade helium balloon.

Sheriff Jim Alderden told reporters that Richard and Mayumi Heene of Fort Collins would probably face Class 3 misdemeanor charges related to the filing of a false report, but added that such a charge “hardly seems serious enough given the circumstances.”

He added that he would talk to the Federal Aviation Administration and the district attorney to see “if there are additional federal charges that would be more appropriate under the circumstances than what we’re able to do locally.”

The sheriff, who said he would have more details at a press conference Sunday, added that the Heenes came to his office to be interviewed voluntarily, and that they were not under arrest.

At a press conference at his house earlier Saturday, Mr. Heene denied that the episode was a publicity stunt.

“Absolutely no hoax,” he said.

Mr. Heene then held up a box and told reporters that they could submit questions there before returning to the house.

The sheriff had previously said he thought the Heenes were telling the truth when they said they thought their son was in the 20-foot silver Mylar balloon that was accidentally released Thursday.

Authorities from multiple agencies tracked the balloon for more than two hours as it sailed about 50 miles before landing softly near Denver International Airport. Rescuers were horrified to discover that six-year-old Falcon Heene wasn’t aboard the balloon as expected.

A Weld County sheriff’s deputy said he thought he saw something drop from the balloon before it landed, leading to speculation that the boy may have fallen from the aircraft, which reached an altitude of more than 10,000 feet during its flight.

Shortly thereafter, Falcon Heene emerged from his hiding place in the rafters of his family’s garage attic. He said that he had hidden because his father yelled at him and that he was afraid he would get in trouble.

Richard Heene said that he yelled at Falcon after he crawled into an equipment box attached to the experimental weather balloon. The family had planned to release the balloon to hover at about 20 feet in the air, but it came untethered accidentally and floated away, according to Mr. Heene.

Speculation about whether the incident was a publicity stunt emerged after Falcon said in a television interview, “You said we did this for a show.” His father explained that the boy had confused the incident with a later encounter with television reporters in which they asked him to show them his hiding place.

The family is hardly camera-shy, having appeared on television several times, both on local news profiles and in an episode of the ABC-TV show “Wife Swap,” in which Mrs. Heene traded places with a more risk-averse Connecticut woman.

This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide