Police have asked Child Protective Services to investigate the Colorado family of a boy who was believed to have been aboard a runaway homemade flying saucer, but was later found hiding in his family's garage.
Amid mounting public suspicion that the parents of Falcon Heene, 6, intentionally released the 20-foot balloon in an effort to garner publicity, the Larimer County sheriff said police and child services professionals would interview the boy and his parents.
Sheriff Jim Alderden said Child Protective Services would "probably open an investigation," but asked that they wait until law enforcement officials had an opportunity to question the family Saturday.
Alderden said he believed the boy hid in the rafters and fell asleep there because he thought he was responsible for untethering the aluminum foil balloon.
He said he further believed that the parents were legitimately worried about their son's well-being and that it did not appear to be a hoax or publicity stunt.
"We were convinced yesterday having talked to the parents and investigators that the parents were being honest," he said.
He said they "appropriately expressed statements, nonverbal communication, body language and emotions that were entirely consistent with events that were taking place. They believed the boy was in there."
"Our people didn't think [that emotional response] could be faked or was faked," he said.
The sheriff said he doubted the 6-year-old, who allegedly slept during the hunt for him, could have been coached to remain quiet and still during the five-hour search, given his "hyperactive" disposition.
"The suggestion to us that he had been coached to hide and remain still for five hours is inconceivable. It is much more likely he was frightened because he thought he was responsible for the device becoming untethered," Alderden said.
The sheriff said the boy's statements Thursday night on CNN, in which he said "we did this for a show" had raised some new questions about whether the family had planned the incident as part of a hoax. As a result of those comments, the sheriff said he would again interview the family.
"Clearly, that has raised everyone's level of skepticism. We will go back to the family and reinterview them and establish if this is actually a hoax or an actual event," he said.
The sheriff said police were waiting to interview the boy because he was sick, twice vomiting during morning TV show interviews today.
"We had hoped to do it today, but after watching the boy being sick and the family suffering from fatigue, we thought it in their best interest to not interview them today but perhaps tomorrow after they've settled down and had some rest," he said.
Alderden said sheriff's deputies searched the Heenes' home three times, but never looked in the rafters above the garage because they did not think the area was accessible to a small child. He said the boy climbed on top of a box to the get to the attic.
Alderden added that officials believed it was possible that the aircraft was capable of carrying the boy, answering some critics who claim the flight was a hoax because the device could not conceivably carry that weighty a payload.
Police released a 911 tape of Falcon's parents frantically calling 911 to report that their son was stowed away in the floating balloon.