Boy, 6, found alive after hot-air balloon drama



FORT COLLINS, Jeanie Stokes - A six-year-old Colorado boy feared to have floated to his death on a home-made helium balloon was found alive Thursday, ending a nerve-shredding drama that captivated the nation.
Falcon Heene was found hiding in a cardboard box in the attic of the garage at his family's home in Fort Collins, outside Denver, roughly four hours after his brother told police he had climbed into the balloon and taken off.



Boy, 6, found alive after hot-air balloon drama
The story dominated US television networks, which followed the progress of the runaway flying saucer-shaped balloon as it drifted thousands of feet into the atmosphere before making a soft landing two hours later.
Authorities began fearing the worst after the craft was found to be empty and local media reports cited witnesses who reported seeing an unidentified object fall from the balloon during it's solo flight.
But fears of a tragic ending to the story evaporated after Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden received a call from an officer during a briefing with reporters: Falcon had been found alive.
"The boy's been there all the time. He's been hiding in a cardboard box in the attic above the garage," a beaming Alderden told reporters.
"I don't want to make a conjecture, but this is not the first time when we have been involved in searching for some child and once the child realizes people are looking for them, they hide because they're afraid they're going to get in trouble," he added.
Alderden said police had questioned the brother several times about what he had seen shortly before the balloon drifted away.
"What he said was that he saw his brother climb into that apparatus and he was very adamant, they interviewed him multiple times and that was his consistent story," Alderden said.
"I can't tell you how many times this has happened over the course of my career. I think the thing that was confusing is that we had the eyewitness that said that he climbed into this apparatus, which clearly was not the case."
Neighbors had earlier reported a "commotion" in the Heene's backyard as the drama unfolded.
"I heard some commotion in the backyard and then I spoke briefly with two of the older boys who were on the roof and they were telling me that their brother was up in the air," neighbor Bob Licko told CNN Headline News.
"They seemed animated. They were just simply telling me that he was up in the air but I could tell with the commotion in the backyard with the parents that something had gone wrong," he added.
The boy's father Richard Heene -- described by the Denver Post as a retired weather man -- once appeared on ABC's reality show "Wife Swap" where he was described as the patriarch of a "storm-chasing, science-obsessed family."
The Denver Post reported in a 2007 story that Heene was an amateur scientist who would often take his wife and sons with him as he hunted storms to record data and cloud formations.
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Friday, October 16th 2009
Jeanie Stokes
           


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