Colorado balloon boy's dad denies saga was hoax

Written on 11:36 AM, Wednesday, October 21, 2009 by Welcome!

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado sheriff largely dismissed suggestions on Friday that a family of amateur scientists staged a hoax by reporting their 6-year-old son had floated away in a home-made helium balloon.
The bizarre incident on Thursday gripped U.S. television viewers as the silver balloon raced across the Colorado sky, tracked by U.S. National Guard helicopters for hours before the boy, Falcon Heene, was found alive and well in his attic.

Questions about the saga were raised after Falcon was asked on CNN's "Larry King Live" why he had stayed in hiding so long when family members and other searchers were desperately calling his name.
"You guys (his parents) said that, um, we did this for the show," he said.

The boy's father strongly denied in television interviews on Friday that the incident was a stunt.
"We believe at this time that it was a real event," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden told a news conference on Friday.

"We have to operate on what we can prove as a fact and not what people want to be done or what people speculate should be done," Alderden said.

He acknowledged the boy's comment "has raised everybody's level of skepticism again and we feel its incumbent on us to go back to the family and re-interview them and establish whether in fact this was a hoax," Alderden said.

Authorities had considered desperate measures to bring the craft down safely and, after discovering the boy was not inside, had begun scouring the countryside amid fears he had fallen out.
Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi, and three sons have appeared on the ABC television reality show "Wife Swap" in which families swap mothers to deal with family problems. Richard Heene said the balloon was part of an experiment by the family, which is known locally for its storm-chasing and scientific experiments.


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