Colorado balloon boy's dad denies saga was a hoax

Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:44am EDT

Related Topics

* Boy says he stayed hidden "for the show"

* Father rejects media accusations are pathetic

* Mother says really thought she had lost their son

DENVER, Oct 16 (Reuters) - A Colorado father rejected suggestions on Friday that a search-and-rescue operation triggered by fears his son had floated away in a home-made balloon was an attention-seeking hoax.

"To have people say that, I think, is extremely pathetic," Richard Heene told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Local authorities said that while they did not believe the incident was a hoax they would seek to interview the family again.

Falcon Heene, 6, was found alive in the attic of his home on Thursday -- a happy ending after several hours during which he was thought to be in the silver flying saucer-shaped balloon watched live on television as it drifted over Colorado. When the craft landed, the boy was not inside, prompting fears he had fallen out.

Falcon -- whose brother had said that he had climbed inside the balloon before it became untethered -- said he had hidden in the attic over the garage because he was scared after his father scolded him earlier for having climbed into the ballon's utility compartment.

But later on Thursday, Falcon himself aroused suspicions when asked on CNN's "Larry King Live" why he stayed in hiding so long when people were calling his name. "You guys (his parents) said that we did this for the show," he said.

Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi, and three sons have appeared on 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, who are keen on scientific experiments and storm-chasing.

The family, who live in Fort Collins, Colorado, has also posted videos on You Tube.

DOUBTS

"Absolutely not," Richard Keene told CNN, asked if it was all a publicity stunt. "I'm kind of appalled that after all the feelings that I went through, up and down, that you guys are trying to suggest something else, OK? I'm really appalled."

His wife added: "What we went through the whole day is real... I really thought we might have lost him."

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden told "Good Morning America" that investigators initially believed that the family was telling the truth, based on their interviews and body language.

"They were completely convinced this was the real deal and not a hoax," he said. But Alderden said Falcon's comment on CNN had prompted questions.

"Certainly, that statement that was made last night on the interview raises the questions again," Alderden said. "We do intend to go back and try and re-interview the family."

The sheriff told Denver television station KUSA that "if this turns out to be a hoax ... certainly we would seek compensation" for the cost of yesterday's search and rescue efforts.

Heene was irritated at the suggestion he had been seeking publicity.

"I'm not selling anything. This is what we do all the time," he told "Good Morning America." "I don't have a can of beans I'm trying to promote. This is just another day in the life of what we do," he said of his science experiments. (Writing by Frances Kerry, Editing by Sandra Maler)



FILED UNDER: