The Balloon Boy Controversy: Was The Falcon Heene Scare Real Or A Hoax?

October 19th, 2009

balloonOn Thursday, October 15, a 6-year-old boy named Falcon Heene caught the attention of the entire nation. The boy was missing and thought to be trapped inside a homemade weather balloon that broke free and took flight in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The balloon was a Mylar covered contraption that contained a small basket on the bottom. No tests had been done to determine exactly how much weight the basket can handle, but it was thought to be able to hold up to 100 pounds – more than enough to carry young Falcon Heene.

When the balloon blew into the air from the Heene’s backyard, no one was sure of Falcon’s whereabouts. His brother Bradford said he had seen Falcon climb inside the basket, but hadn’t seen him come back out. The terrified family scoured the house in a frantic search, but Falcon was nowhere to be found. They came to the conclusion that the boy was stuck inside a balloon that was being swept across the sky high above Colorado.

Thanks largely to a live video of the balloon’s flight, the world began to watch and fear for the safety of Falcon Heene. All indicators seemed to confirm that the boy was inside the balloon; unable to see out and most certainly terrified. Talk turned to how to rescue the boy and bring the balloon safely to the ground.

Flights from Denver airport were put on hold, emergency vehicles stood by and the world watched breathlessly as the balloon was swept upwards in fast gusts of wind, at times reaching 7,000 feet. Then, the worst seemed to happen. A deputy reported seeing something drop out of the balloon, and a photo seemed to confirm that an object did fall to the ground. An intense search of the area began, but nothing turned up. Falcon’s fate seemed uncertain.

Finally, after 2 hours, the balloon landed. It dropped softly to the ground about 50 miles away from the Heene household, and rescue workers raced to the scene before it could take flight a second time. As the rescuers released the helium from the balloon and opened it they were surprised to find – nothing. No Falcon, and no sign that someone had been inside at all.

Later that evening the worried Heene family waited for news in their living room when young Falcon walked right in to join them. He had been hiding in the attic, afraid that he was in trouble with his father. Falcon was safe, but doubts arose about whether or not the entire incident was a publicity stunt.

The Heenes appeared on “Larry King Live” that night to talk about their ordeal. Falcon was asked why he remained hidden in the attic for so long, especially when the entire family was searching for him and calling his name. His reply was “You guys said we did this for the show”. That comment energized the idea that the balloon escapade was merely a hoax.

On Friday, October 16, Sheriff Jim Alderden stated that the police believed the incident was real, and the Heene family genuinely did think Falcon was inside the balloon. He noted that seasoned investigators had interviewed Falcon’s parents, and were “Completely convinced that this was a real deal, and not a hoax, based on all of their communication, their body language, their emotions that were displayed throughout the event of yesterday.”

These law enforcement officials have changed their tune. By Sunday, October 18, Sheriff Alderden claimed that the entire incident was a publicity stunt intended to help the Heene family land their own reality television show. The Sheriff went on to say that he intentionally misled the media when claiming that Falcon’s father Richard Heene was innocent, because he wanted the man to feel the police were on his side. This was done to maintain a sense of trust, and make it easier for authorities to discover the truth.

Ongoing investigations have led the police to believe that the balloon could not have held Falcon’s weight. Officials are now saying they aren’t even sure if Falcon was ever in the balloon, or if he was actually hiding in the attic. They feel the entire incident was a ruse to gain national media attention. If that’s true, this will be one of the most expensive pranks in recent history. Charges are likely to be filed against Falcon’s parents.

At PeopleFinders, we are happy that the family is together and safe. So what do you think? Was the entire thing a publicity stunt, or a terrifying situation with a happy conclusion? Leave us a comment to let us know your thoughts, and thank you for reading the People Search blog.

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