Colorado Boy Safe After Flying Saucer Scare

Boy believed caught in runaway aircraft is found hiding in his family's attic.

October 15, 2009, 2:39 PM

Oct. 15, 2009 — -- The father of a 6-year-old boy whose disappearance held the country in thrall when it was believed he was trapped in a 20-foot "homemade flying saucer" that floated out of control across Colorado for two hours, said "my legs got weak" when his son later turned up at home -- alive and unharmed.

"I couldn't even walk from one room to the next," Richard Heene said as he clutched his formerly missing son and spoke to reporters. "Right now, my legs are weak and it's kind of why I want to go back and sit down. I'm out of energy right now and I can barely speak."

Heene and law enforcement officials said Falcon Heene, 6, of Fort Collins, Colo., was found hiding in a cardboard box in an attic above the family garage, where he had retreated after his father scolded him for fiddling with the experimental aircraft tethered in the family yard.

"I was in the attic and he scared me because he yelled at me," Falcon Heene told reporters. "That's why I went in the attic."

"I'm really sorry I yelled at him," Richard Heene said, standing with his wife and three sons. "He scared the heck out of us."

But even as Heene celebrated his son's homecoming, the amateur scientist -- whose family's storm-chasing adventures have been detailed on local and national news and entertainment shows -- fended off questions about how the emergency developed and how his son could have gone undiscovered in hiding for so long.

Based on the eyewitness account of one of Falcon's older brothers, Brad, who told authorities he saw the 6-year-old stow himself in the balloon's basket just before it broke free from its tether and took off, authorities initially believed the boy was aboard the balloon, and followed the Mylar aircraft approximately 50 miles.

Local and federal officials tracked the balloon's path as television helicopters circled the vessel and TV stations broadcast it's flight live.

When reached at the family home before the aircraft was recovered on the ground, Richard Heene was crying and said he was not watching television images of the silver "low altitude vehicle" flying over the Colorado plains. He said he was praying and waiting for an update from police.

Falcon Heene 'A Great Kid, Very Adventurous'

As millions of other people watched live video footage of the balloon on TV, the aircraft appeared to visibly deflate, spin and rock from side to side. When it landed near the Denver airport, sheriff's officials tethered it to the ground and cut it with sharp tools to deflate it.

However, they reported no sign of the boy or a box that had been attached to the balloon.

Believing Falcon Heene may have fallen out of the aircraft, investigators searched a miles-wide area looking for him.

Volunteers walked through the treeline near the family's home, calling out the boy's name.

"Falcon is a great kid, very adventurous, and has no fear factor. For him to climb into this balloon would not be out of character," said neighbor Tina Sanchez.

Sheriff Jim Alderden was in the midst of telling the media that law enforcement officials were unclear about the boy's whereabouts when he was alerted that the boy was alive and well at the family's home.

"He's OK, he's been located, he's at the house," Alderden said. "Investigators will interview him and find out what occurred."

"This is not the first time we've been searching for a child and the child hides because he's worried he's going to get in trouble," Alderden added.

Officials said later that there were no grounds for criminal charges against the family, and that the family would not be charged for the cost of the search.

However, when the family subsequently appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" via remote hookup, guest host Wolf Blitzer asked why Falcon did not come out of hiding earlier as his name was called. After the boy's father relayed the question, Falcon said, without further elaboration, "You guys said that we did this for a show."

Later, toward the end of a lengthy interview, Blitzer asked Richard Heene to ask his son, who could not hear Blitzer, what he meant by the comment. Heene briefly suggested Falcon might have been talking about the family's two appearances on the ABC show, "Wife Swap."

Heene and his family's appearances on other local and national media outlets also were collected on a Web site,, until the site stopped loading while authorities chased the balloon across the skies of Colorado.

As Heene continued to field Blitzer's question about Falcon's quote and was asked to respond to suggestions the incident could have been a publicity stunt, he appeared to grow more indignant.

"I'm kind of appalled after all the feelings that I went through, up and down, that you guys are trying to suggest something else," he finally said.

'A Low-Altitude Vehicle for People to ... Hover Above Traffic'

The 20-foot-long, dome-shaped aircraft covered with foil was built by Richard Heene, a former weatherman who said he was designing an aircraft for commuter travel.

"We were working on an experimental craft -- I call it the 3D LAV, a low-altitude vehicle for people to pull out of their garage and hover above traffic for about 50 to 100 feet," Heene said later. "It's still the very early stages of the invention."

The Federal Aviation Administration and Army National Guard tracked the balloon before it returned to the ground. The Army National Guard said it sent a helicopter to monitor the aircraft, and the Colorado National Guard sent up a Kiowa UH-58 helicopter, "deployed to locate the balloon."

ABC News' Clayton Sandell in Denver contributed to this report.