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Sheriff: No Evidence Balloon Saga Was A Hoax

A Colorado sheriff said Friday he has no reason to believe a family was perpetrating a hoax when they reported their 6-year-old son was inside a runaway balloon Thursday, sparking a frantic, hours-long air and ground search.

Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Jim Alderden told reporters at news conference in Fort Collins, Colo., that the demeanor and body language of parents Richard and Mayumi Heene caused investigators to believe that the event was not a stunt designed to get publicity for the family's many media-centered projects.

"I just can't see this particular boy being told, 'Go sit up there for five hours and be quiet.' I just don't see that happening as hyperactive as he is," Alderden said at a news conference.


Young Falcon Heene was found hiding in a space above the garage hours after the craft landed in a field about 60 miles from his home. Rescue workers launched a search for the child when rescuers did not find him inside the helium-filled balloon.

Questions were raised after the boy said "we did this for a show" during an interview with CNN. The boys' parents are storm chasers who appeared in the ABC reality show Wife Swap.

The boy's father called the accusations "pathetic."

"I went through such a roller coaster of emotions yesterday, to have people say that, I think, is extremely pathetic," Richard Heene told ABC.

Alderden said if the event is a hoax, the county will try to recover the money spent on the search. "We will seek restitution by whatever means we have available."


He said the parents could be charged with making a false report to authorities if investigators determine it was a hoax.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Department contacted a university professor who determined that a balloon of that size would support a child the size of Falcon. Alderden said the balloon would handle a payload of about 80 pounds; the child weighs about 37 pounds.

Alderden said the parents allowed investigators to talk with the boy alone after the incident, and officers don't think family members were faking the intense emotions they expressed throughout the day.

Alderden said investigators plan to interview the family again Saturday after they've had a chance to rest, and he did appear to have some questions about the turn of events.

The Heene family was interviewed on morning news shows Friday, and the boy at the center of the saga got sick twice when he and his father were asked during separate interviews what he meant when he said that "we did this for a show."

During an ABC interview on Friday, Falcon was asked why he said he was hiding "for a show," at which point he said: "Mom, I feel like I'm going to vomit." He then left the room with his mother and could be heard gagging.

During a live interview on NBC's Today show, which aired simultaneously with the ABC interview, Falcon vomited into a container while his father answered the same question.

From NPR and wire service reports

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